(العربية) جئت لأميركا كلاجئ ثم ساهمت في تجديد البنتاغون. “وزارة الدفاع”

Posted on الواشنطن بوست قصتي بسيطة، تبدأ في ليبيا و تنتهي في البنتاغون. عندما انتهت الحرب العالمية الثانية ، هربت عائلتي من النظام القمعي في ليبيا بعد تشكل دولة اسرائيل حيث أصبح الوضع صعباً على اليهود في ليبيا. لم نحصل على الفيزا الأميركية الا في العام ١٩٥٧ حيث تمكنا أخيراً من السفر لأميركا. خلال الطريق عشنا في كلمن تونس و ايطاليا حيث ولدت أنا و أختي الأكبر، خلال أشهر قليلة من وصولنا لنيويورك، ولد أخي الثالث. والدي كان خياط مع تعليم متوسط وبواسطة منظمة هيسا لاعادة توطين اليهود تمكنا من الوصول لهذه البلاد. لازلت أتذكر حتى اليوم نظرة الحماس في عيون والدي حين حطت سفينتنا على شاطئ نيويورك أمام تمثال الحرية..لم أكن أفهم الكثير حينها لأني كنت بعمر ال٦ سنوات الا أني كنت حزين على دراجتي الحمراء التي تركناها خلفنا. أعرف أن القارئ سيفكر للحظة أنها قصة من ملايين قصص اللجوء . عائلة فقيرة تهرب من بلد قمعي و تعاني لتنتقل للعيش في بلد مزدهر حيث يحصل الأولاد على تعليم ممتاز. قصص كثيرة حكيت مع منع المهاجرين الجديد الذي سنه ترامب. أشعر بشعور اللاجئين المرفوضين اليوم لأن أهلي كانوا مرفوضين من دخول أميركا في بادئ الأمر و لعدة سنوات الا أني حين حصلت على الفرصة و وصلت هنا عملت كل ما بوسعي لأعطي هذه البلاد كما منحتني الكثير. شعرت بأني أجنبي في سنيني الأولى هنا و عندما استقرينا في نيويورك قبلت في جامعة ايكسيتير ثم في ييل لأحصل على شهادتي في الهندسة المعمارية الا أن رحلتي من الباخرة في شاطئ نيويورك الى ييل أعطت معنى لحياتي. أتذكر مشاهدة محاولات أمي – دون جدوى – التفاوض على سعر البقالة في السوبر ماركت، في محاولة لمعرفة ما إذا كانت حبوب الشيريوس تنقع في القهوة أو عصير البرتقال، أو في محاولاتها لفهم تفضيل الأميركيين للحوم الديك البيضاء الجافة بدلا من الدجاج الرطب في يوم عيد الشكر، الحياة هنا كان بالتأكيد تحديا. بعد حل هذه الأسرار على مدى العقود القليلة الماضية – بما في ذلك كيفية تحميص الديك الرومي – أتمنى أن بامكاني القول اليوم إنني أمريكي. لقد أصبحت، في الواقع، مواطناَ أميركياً، ولكن أنا لست متأكدا من أنني سوف أكون قادر على الاعتقاد بأنني حقا أمريكا، لأن ديوني لهذا البلد لا تزال مرتفعة جدا وشعوري بصرورة وفاء الدين لا يزال عميقا جدا. قد يكون الانتقال من الضيف إلى المضيف لا يمكن أن يحدث إلا عبر الأجيال. لدي ثلاث بنات، ولم يروني أبدا أحاول التفاوض على أسعار البقالة في السوبرماركت. جلبتني الصدفة الصرفة إلى واشنطن العاصمة بعد الدراسات العليا. لم أكن أعرف أن أيا من المهارات الحياتية في هذه المدينة الا أن شكل الأبنية التاريخية والقديمة كان يأسرني. مع مرور الوقت، تشرفت بتصميم وتجديد وإعادة بناء بعض المباني العظيمة في عاصمة بلادنا – مقر وزارة الأمن الداخلي، وزارة الخزانة، وزارة الداخلية، مجلس الاحتياطي الاتحادي والصليب الأحمر الأمريكي ؛ مبنى منزل المدفع؛ ومبنى جون أ. ويلسون، على سبيل المثال لا الحصر. ومع ذلك، فقد اختارت وزارة الدفاع لحظة فخري لقيادة عملية تجديد البنتاغون التي بلغت مليارات الدولارات بعد هجمات 11 أيلول / سبتمبر المدمرة. وكانت المنافسة في هذا العمل كبيرة: حيث تم تحديد ميزانية ثابتة بالدولار، كان علينا أن نضع خطة لإصلاح هيكل البناء وجميع نظمه بشكل كامل وتحويله إلى منشأة حديثة ذات تكنولوجيا عالية قادرة على تلبية احتياجاتنا الدفاعية للسنوات الخمسين المقبلة – بشرط أن يظل المبنى يعمل بكامل طاقته خلال اصلاحنا له. بالنسبة لنا وشريكنا في البناء، هنسيل فيلبس، بدا أنه طلب منا إجراء جراحة القلب على عداء الماراثون في منتصف السباق. عدة مرات خلال المسابقة، سألنا أنفسنا عما إذا كنا نلتزم بتسليم المستحيل وما إذا كانت عشرات الفرق الأخرى التي نتنافس عليها ستصل في النهاية إلى النتيجة نفسها. في النهاية أكملنا المشروع، وقمنا به في حدود الميزانية وقمنا بتسليمه قبل 12 شهرا من الموعد المحدد. وبينما أنظر إلى الوراء، أتساءل لماذا اتخذت هذه اللجنة ذات المخاطر العالية، وما إذا كنت سأفعل ذلك مرة أخرى. أكثر من ذلك، على الرغم من أنني كان مدفوعا بحماس مثال والدي والمخاطر التي أخذوها طوال حياتهم. مثل العديد من الأميركيين، عشت حياة مريحة وخالية من المخاطر هنا في الولايات المتحدة. ويبدو لي أنه غالبا ما يكون أفرادنا العسكريون والمهاجرون يبحثون عن حياة أفضل حيث يتعرضون لأكبر المخاطر. ليس لدي خلفية عسكرية، ولكن ربما هو تراث المهاجرين الحديث الذي يدفعني إلى مواجهة بعض التحديات. لم نكن لنتمكن من إعادة بناء البنتاغون – أو أي من المعالم الوطنية الأخرى والتي هي في غاية الأهمية بالنسبة للهوية المدنية لمدينتنا – دون مشاركة مهاجرين آخرين مثلي. وكنا قادرين فقط على تلبية جدول البنتاجون الشاق من خلال الوصول إلى عمق مجموعة العمل التي شملت حاملي البطاقة الخضراء وتأشيرة الدخول من عشرات البلدان في جميع أنحاء العالم. اليوم، وأنا أشاهد الأخبار وأرى الأسر التي تكافح من أجل مغادرة بلدانها والهروب من الطغيان، أتساءل من منهم سوف يصل إلى شواطئنا ويصبح جزءا من الجيل القادم من الباحثين والمعلمين والمخترعين والمطورين العقاريين، والمهندسين المعماريين. ويحدوني الأمل في أن تتخذ إدارة ترامب إجراءات لضمان أن يكون حظر السفر مؤقتا، حتى يتمكن الأفراد الطيبون الذين يعملون بجد من الفرار من الاستبداد من العثور على منزل جديد كما فعلت – وأن كل واحد منهم سيحصل على نفس الفرصة للمساعدة في بناء هذه الأمة العظيمة كما كان لي الشرف في ذلك.April 19, 2017 No Comments

الواشنطن بوست قصتي بسيطة، تبدأ في ليبيا و تنتهي في البنتاغون. عندما انتهت الحرب العالمية الثانية ، هربت عائلتي من النظام القمعي في ليبيا بعد تشكل دولة اسرائيل حيث أصبح الوضع صعباً على اليهود في ليبيا. لم نحصل على الفيزا الأميركية الا في العام ١٩٥٧ حيث تمكنا أخيراً من السفر لأميركا. خلال الطريق عشنا في […]

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الليبيون يقدمون لحن قديم بصوت جديد .

Posted on يانيف رابا و سينغال يانكالي شابين اسرائيليين تربعوا مكانة فريدة في فن البوب عن طريق غناء تراتيل يهودية ليبية قديمة. مع المزج الحديث الواضح لعدة أنماط موسيقية، و النوع الجميل من الشعر الذي هو مزيج بين العربية والأفريقية والتأثيرات التركية والغربية تتسرب القطع الموسيقية بسلاسة من الات الفرقة الموسيقية المؤلفة من ست افراد. في 7 أيار، سيقوم الليبيون لاول مرة بزيارة الولايات المتحدة كجزء من مهرجان عالمي في مانهاتن يعرض سلسلة من الفنانين الذين كان لها السبق في ابتكار أنواع موسيقية جديدة، و إحياء التقاليد المفقودة، ودفع حدود الموسيقى الشعبية الى جميع أنحاء العالم. بين عامي 1949 و الاستقلال الليبي عام 1951 غادر أكثر من 30000 من يهود ليبيا الى اسرائيل وفقاً لمدونة يهود ليبيا . أما ألبوم الليبيون “التجول” فقط أبصر النور بعد عامين من التجميع و الانتاج ويكاد هذا الألبوم يكون الوحيد المحدث للايات الليبية التقليدية . تمكنت صحيفة فوروورد من الوصول لرئيس فرقة ليبيون و هو يانيف رابا و حاورته عبر الايميل : ميشيل كامينار : هل ستكون موسيقاكم مألوفة بالنسبة لجميع اليهود الشرقيين منهم و الغربيين ؟ يانيف رابا : يانيف رابا: بما أن الموسيقى تستند في معظمها على مقياس موسيقى المقام الشهير في منطقة الشرق الاوسط، فأعتقد أنه سوف تبدو مألوفة لليهود السفارديم. الفرقة تحتوي عدد كبير من الايقاعات و الالات كالعود ، الناي (الفلوت في منتصف الشرقي) – والآلات الغربية، مثل باس والغيتار. اضافة الى وجود إيقاعات مختلفة كالدربكة، الرق، لكاجون. كيف اكتشفت فرقتكم هذا النوع من الموسيقى ؟ و هل كان هذا النوع من الموسيقى مهدد بالانقراض ؟ لقد نشأت على سمع وغناء بعض التراتيل التقليدية ،في المناسبات الخاصة – حفلات الزفاف، مساء السبت، وأعياد الميلاد، و العطل . وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن مركز شالوم حافظ على إرث اليهود الليبيين، وشارك في إنتاج ورعاية الألبوم، ووفر لنا العديد من التسجيلات من مكتبة خاصة به. بقية الموسيقى جاءت من تسجيلات لوالدي، ديفيد رابا وهو مؤدي ليبي معروف للتراتيل التقليدية وزعيم الصلاة في كنيس يهودي في نتانيا. معظم هذه التسجيلات التقليدية لم يتم توثيقها ونحن نحاول باستمرار ايجاد المزيد من المرنمين من هذا الجيل الذين هم على دراية به، وعلى استعداد لتقاسم هذه الأغاني معنا لكن للأسف، عدد قليل منهم لا يزالون يعيشون بيننا . ما هي ردات الفعل التي تلقيتموها على موسيقاكم خاصة من الناس المنتمية للبلدان التي أتت منها هذه الموسيقى ؟ هذا النوع من الموسيقى يثير أحاسيس الحنين. ويذكر الناس بجذورهم الليبية في مرحلة الطفولة، والأجداد، والأحداث. أكثر من ذلك، نحن نسعد بالجمهور الذي لا يجد هذا النمط من الموسيقى مألوف رغم ذلك يتواصلون مع روح هذه الموسيقى و يحبونها . نحن نطلق موسيقانا هذه بلغة عالمية لذا سيتواصل معنا ناس كثر من مختلف المشارب و لكن بالنهاية همنا الوحيد هو وصل الشرق بالغرب و حشد أكبر عدد ممكن من الناس حول فننا . هذا النوع من الغناء مقدس . هل كان لهذا أي اعتبار عندكم ؟ هل تواصلتم مع راباي أو مرنم مختص بهذا الأمر قبل أن تقوموا بالتسجيل ؟ بالطبع نتشاور باستمرار مع والدي و شخصيات دينية أخرى في المجتمع، مثل رئيس مركز شالوم. هدفنا هو الحفاظ على هذه الموسيقى و روحها المقدسة مع تحويلها إلى أغنية المعاصرة. جنبا إلى جنب مع شريكي يانكالي في التوزيع والإنتاج الموسيقي نبني مفهوما حول كل أغنية، وقبل مرحلة التسجيل، يقودنا هذا المفهوم نحو المراحل المختلفة من الإنتاج. November 4, 2016 No Comments

يانيف رابا و سينغال يانكالي شابين اسرائيليين تربعوا مكانة فريدة في فن البوب عن طريق غناء تراتيل يهودية ليبية قديمة. مع المزج الحديث الواضح لعدة أنماط موسيقية، و النوع الجميل من الشعر الذي هو مزيج بين العربية والأفريقية والتأثيرات التركية والغربية تتسرب القطع الموسيقية بسلاسة من الات الفرقة الموسيقية المؤلفة من ست افراد. في 7 […]

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Dershowitz weighs in, but media stay mum

Posted on Point of no Return September 27, 2012 Historical evidence conclusively establishes that the forced exile of Jews from Arab countries was part of a general plan to punish Jews in retaliation for the establishment of Israel. There were organized pogroms against Jewish citizens. Jewish leaders were hanged. Jewish synagogues were torched. Jewish bank accounts and other property were confiscated. Jews remained in Arab lands at risk to their lives. Yet Hanan Ashrawi and others dispute the applicability of the label of “refugee” to these Jews. Their argument is that since they are not seeking a right to return to their native lands, they do not qualify as refugees. Under that benighted definition, Jews who escaped from Germany and Poland in the early 1940s would not have been considered refugees, since they had no interest in returning to Berlin or Oświęcim. In 1967, the United Nations’ Security Council took a different view of this matter. I know, because I worked with Justice Arthur Goldberg, who was then the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, on the wording of Security Council Resolution 242, on which the Middle East peace process has long relied. That resolution dealt with the refugee problem. The Soviet Union introduced a draft which would have limited the definition of refugee to Palestinian refugees. The United States, speaking through Justice Goldberg, insisted that attention must be paid to Jewish refugees as well. The American view prevailed and the resulting language referred to a “just settlement of the refugee problem.” Justice Goldberg explained: “The Resolution addresses the objective of ‘achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.’ This language presumably refers to both Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars.” Accordingly, the Jewish and Arab refugees have equal status under international law. There is now pending in Congress H.R. 6242, a law which would grant Jewish refugees from Arab countries equal status under American law. The time has now come, indeed it is long overdue, for these refugee problems to be granted equal status in the court of public opinion, and in the realm of morality. If Hanan Ashrawi really believes that Jews who were forced to leave their homes are not refugees, let her defend her views in a public forum. I hereby challenge her to a debate on that issue. If there are those who doubt the historical accuracy of the Jewish refugee narrative, let an international commission of objective historians take testimony from living refugees. Indeed, it would be useful for an archive now to be created of such testimonies, since many of those who were forced to flee from Arab lands are now aging. There are some who argue that the issue of Jewish refugees is a makeweight being put forward by cynical Israeli politicians to blunt the impact of the Palestinian refugee narrative. But this is not a new issue. I and many others have long been concerned about this issue. Since 1967, I have consulted with Iranian, Iraqi, Egyptian and Libyan families who lost everything—life, property and their original homeland—as the result of a concerted effort by Arab and Muslim governments. What is cynical is any attempt to deflect attention from the real injustices that were suffered, and continue to be suffered, by hundreds of thousands of Jews and their families just because they were Jews who were born in Arab lands. Read MoreSeptember 27, 2012 No Comments

Point of no Return September 27, 2012 Historical evidence conclusively establishes that the forced exile of Jews from Arab countries was part of a general plan to punish Jews in retaliation for the establishment of Israel. There were organized pogroms against Jewish citizens. Jewish leaders were hanged. Jewish synagogues were torched. Jewish bank accounts and […]

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Hamas: ‘Arab Jews’ are not refugees, but criminals

Posted on The Jerusalem Post September 23, 2012 Hamas on Saturday denounced the Israeli call to recognize the suffering of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their material claims – the same way it acknowledges the plight of displaced Palestinians, the Ma’an News Agency reported on Sunday. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder presented the recently launched diplomatic campaign to raise the issue of Jewish refugees, in a special gathering at the UN before Israeli officials, foreign diplomats, activists and journalists last Friday. Following the gathering Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that, “those Jews are criminals rather than refugees.” He added that, “Those Jews were not refugees as they claim. They were actually responsible for the displacement of the Palestinian people after they secretly migrated from Arab countries to Palestine before they expelled the Palestinians from their lands to build a Jewish state at their expense.” Zuhri said it was the fault of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands who “turned the Palestinian people into refugees,” Ma’an reported. Commenting on the conference, he said: “The Hamas movement views this conference as a dangerous, unprecedented move which contributes to the falsification of history and reversing of facts.” Palestinian politicians like Hanan Ashrawi have argued that Jews from Arab lands are not refugees at all and that, either way, Israel is using their claims as a counter-balance to those of Palestinian refugees against it. Ashrawi said that “If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision.” “Arab Jews were part of the Arab region, but they began migrating to Israel after its establishment,” she said. “They did so in accordance with a plan by the Jewish Agency to bring Jews from all around the world to build the State of Israel.” Ashrawi did, nonetheless, acknowledge that “some Arab countries at that time were ruled by tyrannical regimes,” but, she noted, “all citizens, regardless of their religion, were subjected to suffering.” PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has also commented that there was no connection between Palestinian refugees and Israelis whose families are from Arab countries, but he supported their right of return. “We are not against any Jew who wants to return to Morocco, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. I believe no Arab state rejects the Jewish right of returning to their native lands,” he said. The story of the Jewish citizens who left, fled or were expelled from Arabic-speaking countries while the Israeli-Arab conflict flared has been relatively neglected, a fact Ayalon acknowledged in his speech. Read MoreSeptember 23, 2012 No Comments

The Jerusalem Post September 23, 2012 Hamas on Saturday denounced the Israeli call to recognize the suffering of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their material claims – the same way it acknowledges the plight of displaced Palestinians, the Ma’an News Agency reported on Sunday. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Ambassador to the UN Ron […]

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Contentions Peace Means Justice for Jewish Refugees

Posted on Commentary September 21, 2012 By: Jonathan S. Tobin The tragic fate of Palestinian Arab refugees has always loomed over the Middle East conflict. The descendants of those who fled the territory of the newborn state of Israel in 1948 have been kept stateless and dependent on United Nations charity rather than being absorbed into other Arab countries so as to perpetuate the war to extinguish the Jewish state. The refugees and those who purport to advocate for their interests have consistently sought to veto any peace plans that might end the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. They have refused to accept any outcome that did not involve their “return” to what is now Israel, an idea that is tantamount to the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians have gotten away with this irresponsible behavior because they retained the sympathy of a world that saw them as the sole victims of Israel’s War of Independence. But the historical truth is far more complex. Far from 1948 being a case of a one-sided population flight in which Palestinians left what is now Israel (something that most did voluntarily as they sought to escape the war or because they feared what would happen to them in a Jewish majority state), what actually occurred was a population exchange. At the same time that hundreds of thousands of Arabs left the Palestine Mandate, hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the Arab and Muslim world began to be pushed out of their homes. The story of the Jewish refugees has rarely been told in international forums or the mainstream media but it got a boost today when the first United Nations Conference on Jews expelled from Arab Countries was held at the world body’s New York headquarters. While Palestinian refugees deserve sympathy and perhaps some compensation in any agreement that would finally end the conflict, so, too, do the descendants of the Jews who lost their homes. As Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister rightly said today: We will not arrive at peace without solving the refugee problem – but that includes the Jewish refugees. Justice does not lie on just one side and equal measures must be applied to both. It is true that the descendants of the Jewish refugees are not still living in camps waiting for new homes. Though the process was not without its problems, rather than abuse those Jews who were dispossessed and using them as political props as the Arabs did, refugees from the Arab world found homes and lives in Israel and the West with the help of their brethren. But that does not diminish their right to compensation or a fair hearing for their grievances. The truth about the Jewish refugees is something that foreign cheerleaders for the Palestinians as well as the Arab nations who took part in the expulsion have never acknowledged, let alone refuted. As Ron Prosor, Israel’s UN ambassador, pointed out in his speech at the conference, what occurred after Israel’s birth was nothing less than a campaign aimed at eliminating ancient Jewish communities. Arab leaders “launched a war of terror, incitement, and expulsion to decimate and destroy their Jewish communities. Their effort was systematic. It was deliberate. It was planned.” Indeed, not only did Jews lose billions of dollars in property but were deprived of property that amounts to a land mass that is five times the size of the state of Israel. This is something that a lot of people, especially those to whom the peace process with the Palestinians has become an end unto itself don’t want to hear about. They believe that the putting forward of Jewish claims from 1948 is merely an obstacle to negotiations. But such arguments are absurd. Peace cannot be built merely by appeasing the Palestinian claim to sole victimhood. Just as the dispute over territory is one between two peoples with claims, so, too is the question of refugee compensation. Peace cannot be bought by pretending that only Palestinians suffered or that only Arabs have rights. Indeed, such a formulation is a guarantee that the struggle will continue indefinitely since the Palestinians are encouraged to think that they are the only ones with just claims. For far too long the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been cast as one pitting the security of the former against the rights of the latter. Framed this way, it is no surprise that the more emotional appeals of the Palestinians have often prevailed over the arguments of Israelis. Rather than asserting their historic rights, the Jews have often allowed themselves to be cast in the false role of colonial oppressor. The Palestinian pose as the only victims of the war enables them to evade their historic responsibility for both the creation of a refugee problem in 1948 as well as their refusal to accept Israeli peace offers. Let’s hope today’s conference is the beginning of a serious debate about the issue as well as a turning point in discussions about Middle East peace. Peace requires respect for the rights of Jewish refugees as well as those of the Palestinians. Topics: Israel-Palestinian conflict, Jewish refugees, Middle East peace, Palestinian refugees Read MoreSeptember 21, 2012 No Comments

Commentary September 21, 2012 By: Jonathan S. Tobin The tragic fate of Palestinian Arab refugees has always loomed over the Middle East conflict. The descendants of those who fled the territory of the newborn state of Israel in 1948 have been kept stateless and dependent on United Nations charity rather than being absorbed into other […]

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(العربية) The media in disarray over Jewish refugees

Posted on The Times of Israel September 20, 2012 By: Lyn Julius Whatever else you might say about Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s campaign for recognition of the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, he has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. The Arab press and media are in disarray; the campaign has brought forth what Ayalon has termed “extreme and babbling responses” from the Palestinian leadership. Last week’s “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries“ conference in Jerusalem, staged by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in association with the World Jewish Congress (WJC), made history: it was the first official attempt in 64 years to introduce the plight of 850,000 Jewish refugees into mainstream public discourse. On September 21, the scene shifts to New York, when Danny Ayalon, WJC President Ron Lauder and leading lawyer Alan Dershowitz will call for UN recognition of the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Reactions so far in the mainstream media range from bewilderment to hysteria. The campaign is a “cynical manipulation.” It’s about talking points, political point-scoring, “hasbara.” In other words, the involvement of the Israeli MFA has raised the media’s worst suspicions. Haaretz and The Daily Telegraph report that the Israeli government is obeying a recommendation of the Israeli National Security Council. It’s a premeditated strategy. It’s a stumbling block to peace, proof of the Israeli government’s ‘insincerity’, an excuse to avoid a peace settlement even when peace talks are not going on. (Naturally, perpetuating Palestinian refugee status down through the generations is not political. And the Palestinian insistence on their “right of return” to Israel is not a stumbling block to peace. ) The Jewish refugees campaign has been referred to as a tactic intended to deflect attention from Israel’s African refugees crisis, according to Shayna Zamkanei, or divert public opinion from Israeli “discrimination” against Sephardim, according to Sigal Samuel. (You know, discrimination is that thing which makes every Sephardi girl reach for her hair-straightening tongs in order to look like her Ashkenazi friends.) Much Arab criticism has claimed that Jews from Arab countries were not refugees at all. If they were, they would assert a “right of return” of their own to their countries of birth. Since they are now in their homeland of Israel, their aspirations have been fulfilled (Radical Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy has now jumped on this bandwagon). Blogger Petra Marquardt-Bigman calls this vain attempt to “dezionize” Israel an own goal: Ironically, Hanan Ashrawi’s logic is a ringing endorsement of Zionism for the 650,000 Jews who did resettle in Israel. For Hussein Ibish (ably challenged by Ben Cohen), the very fact that the Jews are not asking for a “right of return” makes their campaign for justice “hollow.” They have no substantive claims, he alleges – barring a desire to delegitimise the Palestinian “right of return.” According to Canadian refugee rights lawyer David Matas, however, you can’t both claim to be a refugee and assert a ”right of return.” “The very assertion of a ‘right of return’ is an acknowledgement that the conditions which led to refugee status no longer hold sway,” he told last week’s conference. Needless to say, the conditions in almost all Arab countries remain as hostile and unsafe for Jews – if not more so — as on the day they fled. What the Jewish refugee issue does is to remove a stumbling block to peace by pricking the bubble of Palestinian exceptionalism. If one set of refugees from the conflict has been shown to have been absorbed without fuss, what does it say about the other? Others on the Israeli left have objected to the linkage of the two sets of refugees. One Almog Behar, a young Israeli-born poet, has popped up on Facebook to speak on behalf of an unheard-of committee of Iraqi and Kurdish Jews in Ramat Gan against “renewed Israeli government propaganda efforts to counter Palestinian refugee rights by using the claims of Jews who left Arab countries in the 1950s.” Clutching at Behar’s straw, an Iraqi newspaper is now reporting that Iraqi Jews refuse to be associated with the “file on Palestinian refugees.” For leftist Larry Derfner, the Israeli campaign is not content with seeking parity — it is going for superiority. Derfner contends that the Israeli government’s “splashy new victimhood campaign” engenders a tawdry suffering contest. Leftist blogger Kung Fu Jew charges: I would think that Jews of Arab origin would be outraged that their dispossession is again raised only as a talking point against Palestinian refugees. Well actually, Jews from Arab countries are thrilled that their issue is finally being pushed to the fore. In much of the sniping at Ayalon’s campaign, there is sneering contempt; not compassion for Jewish refugees, nor appreciation for their human rights, from people who only seem to care about Palestinian rights. Under human rights law, Jewish refugees do have substantive claims for which there is no statute of limitations – to remembrance, recognition and redress, a notion that includes compensation. The biggest obstacle to this campaign seems not the foreign or leftist press but mind-numbing ignorance among Israeli Jews. According to a poll released by the WJC to coincide with the international conference, 54% of Israeli Arabs are more likely to link Jewish refugees from Arab countries with Palestinians displaced from Israel, compared to only 48% of Israeli Jews. Even more worrying, 96% of the Jewish population was found to have no knowledge of the issue, compare to 89% of Israeli Arabs. Danny Ayalon, you have an uphill struggle ahead – to educate your own. Read MoreSeptember 20, 2012 No Comments

The Times of Israel September 20, 2012 By: Lyn Julius Whatever else you might say about Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s campaign for recognition of the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, he has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. The Arab press and media are in disarray; the campaign has brought forth […]

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Jews deserve justice too

Posted on Israel Hayom September 14, 2012 By: Dror Eydar The U.N. and the U.S., with the help of the Arab League, are perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem — a perfect tool with which to bash Israel. On the opposite side, shockingly and hypocritically, no one gives a second to the 850,000 Jews who were displaced from Arab countries by means of violence, looting, threats and murder. At the beginning of the week I had the chance to take part in a rare historic event: the first official conference on the issue of Jewish refugees, held under the auspices of Israel's Foreign Ministry in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress. The international conference was titled "Justice for Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries." For the first time in decades, the call for justice for the Jewish people was once again heard in Jerusalem. Not just a call for security, or apologetic Israeli discourse in the face of Palestinian calls for so-called justice, but a clear call, by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to bring the issue of Jewish refugees back into every international arena: the ethical, legal, diplomatic and political arenas. As one of the conference participants, former Canadian Minister of Justice Professor Irwin Cotler, said: “Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.” Indeed, this is a serious issue that has been neglected and kept silent for years, in stark contrast with the Palestinian refugee issue, which has become self evident and universally recognized in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have become experts at marketing their victimhood to the world, and thus, the concept of a “just solution” became unilaterally linked to the Palestinian narrative. But just like every aspect of the Middle East story, here, too, the truth is far more complex. With the exception of a few years prior to World War I, the Arabs living in this region never accepted the Jewish presence here. They rejected the various partition plans, ranging from the Peel Commission in 1937, through the 1947 Partition Plan, to the Oslo Accords and other generous Israeli offers. They were always willing to accept land, but never to sign a final agreement that would spell the end of the conflict. *** In Nov. 1948, the U.N. appointed a task force to coordinate humanitarian aid work for Palestinian refugees. A short time later, the U.N.’s Economic Survey Mission issued its recommendation to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem by resettling them in Arab countries and integrating them in industry and agriculture there. That is how the United Nations Relief and Works Agency came about. Obviously, the plan never came to fruition, because the Arab countries refused to naturalize the Palestinian refugees. They were tasked with being the eternal victims — a means to bash Israel. The Twentieth Century saw millions upon millions of refugees, products of various wars. Population changes occurred in many places around the globe. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus, for example, were displaced from Pakistan to India in the 1950s, and millions of Muslims, meanwhile, took the opposite route. This population exchange involved a lot of violence, but ultimately, it happened. Incidentally, then-Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan visited Cairo in 1960 and voiced hope during a press conference there that the fact that his country absorbed some seven million refugees from India would serve as an example to Arab countries to absorb 750,000 Palestinian refugees. But the status of Palestinian refugees is unlike the status of any other kind of refugee. The U.N. has two agencies that deal with refugees: the UNHCR which handles all the refugees in the world, and a refugee agency just for the Palestinians: UNRWA. The U.N. also has two different definitions of refugee status: one is a general definition assigning refugee status to "people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who, for persecution related reasons, are unable or unwilling to return home." This definition affords refugee status for a limited number of years, and only to the displaced persons themselves, not their offspring. Under this definition, refugee status is revoked when a displaced person settles in, and integrates into another country. But not so when it comes to Palestinian refugees. A Palestinian refugee is defined as “anyone whose normal place of residence was in Mandate Palestine during the period from June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." In short, anyone who lived here for two years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel is considered a Palestinian refugee who lived here “for thousands of years” since the biblical Jebusites ... And incidentally, only Palestinian refugee status can be passed down from generation to generation. Most of UNRWA’s budget comes from the U.S. and the EU, both of which are pushing Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians but are simultaneously helping to perpetuate the conflict. *** Opposite the 600,000 or 700,000 Palestinian refugees, there are more than 850,000 Jewish refugees who were forcibly expelled from Arab countries over the establishment of the State of Israel and its victory in the 1948 War of Independence. The Arab countries are ultimately responsible for creating the refugee problem, both the Palestinian refugee problem that resulted from a war waged by Arab countries against Israel, and the Jewish refugee problem, by stripping Jews of their citizenships, confiscating their property, murdering many of them and violently expelling the rest from the places they had populated for 2,500 years. All this, some 1,000 years before the rise of Islam. It is important to get familiar with the testimonies of Jewish refugees. A good starting point is a website called The Forgotten Million, operated by the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries. These Jews also lived in refugee camps for a time: the Israeli maabarot (refugee absorption camps). But, as opposed to the Palestinian refugee camps, the tents in the maabarot eventually became shacks, which then became permanent housing and ultimately cities. And so, in stark contrast with the U.N.-fueled eternal refugee-hood of the Palestinians, these Jewish refugees integrated into their old-new homeland and were no longer of any interest to anyone. The term "pogrom" was seen as referring to violence only European Jews were subjected to. Furthermore, as Cotler mentioned, in the case of Arab Jews, the violence, the loss of citizenship, the theft of property and the expulsion reflected the stated policy of the Arab League, which had suggested a similar course of action against Jewish nationals back in 1947. Now that the issue has gotten official state recognition, Israel’s representatives should raise the issue of Jewish refugees at every diplomatic event, and demand that justice be done. More than 150 resolutions having to do with Palestinian refugees have been adopted by the U.N. Not one has to do with their Jewish counterparts. It is time to change all that. By the way, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 talks about a “just settlement of the refugee problem” — all refugees, including the Jewish ones. And one more interesting historical note: the same thing that happened to the Jews half a century ago is currently happening before our very eyes to Christians living in Arab countries. The Christians of the Middle East are being persecuted, murdered and expelled. There is only one country in the Middle East where Christians thrive: Israel. That is an important public diplomacy tool. But not only for diplomacy, it is also important for the sake of education. Every Israeli needs this. Without recognition of the Jewish “nakba” (the term Palestinians use to describe the catastrophe of their expulsion from Palestine), as some Jewish survivors describe their past, the resulting vacuum will have room only for the Palestinian version. “And you shall tell your son ...” as the Bible says. Read More September 14, 2012 No Comments

Israel Hayom September 14, 2012 By: Dror Eydar The U.N. and the U.S., with the help of the Arab League, are perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem — a perfect tool with which to bash Israel. On the opposite side, shockingly and hypocritically, no one gives a second to the 850,000 Jews who were displaced from […]

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Hanan Ashrawi Is to Truth What Smoking Is to Health

Posted on Huff Post World September 2, 2012 David Harris Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO Executive Committee member much sought after by Western media outlets, has just earned a gold medal for historical revisionism. In a recent article intended for an Arabic-speaking audience, she asserted there were no Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Instead, according to her, there were only "emigrants," who left their ancestral homes voluntarily. Jews were not singled out for persecution, and if they were, it was, in reality, a plot by "Zionists." This line of Palestinian argumentation is of a piece with other efforts to delegitimize Jewish history. In other words, the Palestinian strategy, of which Ashrawi has been an integral part, is essentially to try to eliminate any grounds for Jewish self-determination and nationhood. Which brings us to her preposterous claim that there were no Jewish refugees from Arab countries. To get personal, according to Ashrawi, my wife's life must be based on a lie. Ironically, my wife and her family -- parents and seven siblings -- placed their faith in Arab "democracy" and "pluralism." How dangerously short-sighted! In 1951, Libya became an independent country. It adopted a constitution that ensured protection of minorities, including Jews. My wife's family, unlike the majority of Libyan Jews, chose to believe in these guarantees. They stayed while others, fearing the worst, had not waited, leaving as quickly as they could. Those fleeing recalled the lethal Arab pogroms of 1945 and 1948, when Libya was still under British rule, and foresaw only a downward spiral under Libyan authority. What happened post-1951? Jews were never accorded equal rights, equal opportunity, or equal protection under the law, such as the law was. They were second-class citizens from the get-go, if, that is, they could even acquire Libyan citizenship. That many had lived there for millennia, indeed long before Arab forces conquered and occupied -- yes, conquered and occupied -- the land was deemed irrelevant. Then came the fateful year of 1967. My wife and her family were turned into refugees, whose lives had been in immediate jeopardy. But they were luckier than some. Many of their Jewish friends and neighbors -- whose names and circumstances are well-known to this day -- were killed by marauding mobs. The reason? Only one. They were Jews. The backdrop was the Six-Day War, a thousand miles away. Libyans found the Jews in Tripoli and Benghazi easy prey, without any means of protection, governmental or otherwise. So, my wife and her family were on the run, seeking safe haven, compelled to start lives anew, and facing the realization they could never return to the land of their birth. If that doesn't make them refugees, pray tell, what does? Do they not have a right to be heard and to make clear there were two refugee populations of roughly equal size, not one, as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict? The Libyan regime, especially after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969, then set about extinguishing any trace of the Jewish presence, as if to write a new history that 40,000 Jews had never lived, studied, worked, created, or otherwise contributed to society. And what took place in Libya was not unique. It was repeated in country after country, from Iraq to Syria, from Egypt to Yemen. It's telling -- isn't it -- that Ashrawi doesn't wish to understand, much less confront, the stark truth. Friends of the Palestinians who wish to advance the prospects of a two-state accord with Israel should open their eyes and see what's staring them in the face. Quick to condemn any alleged misdeed of the Israelis, they tend to make an art form of coddling the Palestinians, offering excuses or rationalizations for their behavior, or simply looking the other way. But the denial of Jewish history - be it ancient or modern, in Israel or the Diaspora -- gets to the core of the conflict. It's not a side show; it's the main show. Think back to Yasser Arafat's assertion to President Bill Clinton that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, seeking to make the insultingly bogus point that no Jewish connection to Jerusalem ever existed. Or, more recently, to Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke at the UN General Assembly last September. He mentioned Christian and Muslim links to the land. Yet he pointedly omitted any reference to the Jewish tie, though it predates the other religions' claims by thousands of years, and is buttressed by a Bible that both Christianity and Islam invoke, not to mention countless archaeological findings. Or consider the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish character of the State of Israel -- and the broader efforts to question its very right to exist, despite the Balfour Declaration (1917), Treaty of San Remo (1920), League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922), Peel Commission (1936), UN Special Committee on Palestine (August 1947), UN General Assembly (November 1947), and UN membership since 1949. Apropos, compare the legal and historical case for Israel as a sovereign state with those of several neighboring countries, including Iraq and Jordan. Quite a contrast! Israel has come a long way from the days of Prime Minister Golda Meir, when Palestinian nationalism, then a relatively recent phenomenon, was rejected. Today, there is a broad consensus among Israelis on the need for a two-state peace accord, however complex its realization may be. As long as Palestinian leaders, however, seek to rewrite history -- as Ashrawi just did -- then, let's be clear, the chances for building trust and moving toward an agreement grow ever slimmer. Read MoreSeptember 2, 2012 No Comments

Huff Post World September 2, 2012 David Harris Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO Executive Committee member much sought after by Western media outlets, has just earned a gold medal for historical revisionism. In a recent article intended for an Arabic-speaking audience, she asserted there were no Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Instead, according to her, there […]

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The Jews of Libya

Posted on The Times of Israel August 7, 2012 Jack Cohen e visited a small exhibition held at the Netanya City Museum on the Jews of Libya. Why Libyan Jews in Netanya? Because soon after the founding of Israel the Jews from Libya were a majority of immigrants in Netanya. This is their story. During WWII the Libyan Arabs collaborated with the Germans and aided them in rounding up Jews. After the war in 1946 there was a massacre of Jews in Libya, and clearly it was impossible for them to stay there. The Jewish Agency sent an emissary named Duvdevani (cherry) to rescue them. In 1948, when the State was founded, there were ca. 36,000 Jews in Libya. Most of them were in the cities, Tripoli and Benghazi, but they were also spread around into the countryside. The Jews from the country were very religious and quite primitive, but those in the cities were modernized and influenced by Italian culture. Duvdevani gathered them into the ports and they gave up or sold everything. They were very happy to take boats and sail for Israel via Italy, sometimes at great risk. They were the only Jewish community that made aliyah almost in its entirety. Half of them, ca. 14,000, settled in Netanya, more than doubling its population in 1948. There were two reason why they settled here, first because it was by the sea and reminded them of the cities they had left. Second, by coincidence, a Palestinian Jew named Menachem Arkin had been a volunteer in the British Army in N. Africa and as a Major had been in charge of Tripoli. After the war when he returned to what became Israel, his job was the Manager of the city of Netanya. He knew many of the Tripolitanian Jews personally from having dealt with them when he was in Libya and he welcomed them to settle in Netanya. At first they lived in tent camps, called ma’abarot, that dotted the countryside soon after independence when the immigrants from Europe and the Arab world flooded in. Eventually they became part of the population and can no longer be distinguished. The exhibition is entitled “My mother’s gold,” but this refers not to the gold that they brought with them, but more to the advice and guidance that their mothers particularly gave them. Of course they could bring little with them, only what they could carry and hide. They sold their gold bracelets and other trinkets in order to give their children an education. The women also did embroidery and sold this to keep them from poverty. Now, of course, this is their history. Examples of their gold and embroidery are shown in the exhibits. Also shown are quotes from Libyan Jews who became Israelis and remembered their mother’s advice and sacrifices. We were shown around the exhibition by Chava Appel who is the Manager of the Netanya Museum. At present this is a one story small building, restored from what had been the first city hall of Netanya. This includes the office of the first Mayor, Oved Ben Ami, who was the visionary who in the 1920′s found the site of what is now Netanya when it was completely barren, saw the potential and collected money to build a resort city here. Needless to say he was successful, Netanya now has a population approaching 200,000. In about 2 years a new larger building will be renovated to constitute the enlarged Netanya City Museum with a permanent exhibition. Part of this will memorialize the role Libyan Jewry played in its development. To update the current situation in Libya, during the uprising against Qaddafi one of the leaders of the revolution invited Libyan Jews to return to Libya. One former Libyan Jew, David Gerbi, took him up on the invitation and went to try to restore a ruined synagogue in Tripoli. He was surrounded by a menacing crowd, then arrested, beaten and expelled. The National Transitional Council issued a statement saying that Gerbi did not have permission to restore the synagogue. Last week a Jewish businessman, Raphael Luzon, went to Tripoli to see if he could arrange a deal. He was also arrested, held for 4 days and then expelled. The message is clear, that post-revoutionary Libya cannot tolerate even a single Jew. Read MoreAugust 7, 2012 No Comments

The Times of Israel August 7, 2012 Jack Cohen e visited a small exhibition held at the Netanya City Museum on the Jews of Libya. Why Libyan Jews in Netanya? Because soon after the founding of Israel the Jews from Libya were a majority of immigrants in Netanya. This is their story. During WWII the […]

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Israeli TV journalist arrested twice, interrogated for hours in Libya

Posted on The Times of Israel August 2, 2012 Leading Israeli journalist Emmanuel Rosen and his crew were arrested twice and interrogated for four hours while filming a documentary in Libya on life there after Muammar Gaddafi. Had his interrogators established that he was Jewish — or more grave still, Israeli — Rosen said on Wednesday, safely back in Israel, “the sky would have been the limit — and it would have been a pretty gray sky.” Rosen and his crew, who were traveling on European passports, said they had no problems when filming at sites such as Gaddafi’s palaces. But they immediately attraced suspicion and hostility when they filmed at Jewish sites such as Tripoli’s Jewish quarter, a synagogue, and the home in Benghazi of a former Libyan Jewish leader, Raphael Luzon — who, thrown out of the country in 1967, now lives in London and was traveling with them. They were arrested first in Tripoli, taken to an army base and interrogated by a man Rosen said was Libya’s minister of intelligence, before being allowed to leave. “We kept stressing that we were a European TV crew,” Rosen said in radio and TV interviews. “The second time was much more complex and dangerous,” he said. Their car was stopped at a roadblock in Benghazi manned by soldiers and civilians, after they had been filming at Luzon’s former home. “They burst into our car, threw out the Libyan nationals who were with us, took our phones, and took us to an intelligence base. We were interrogated for four hours. They keep coming in and out and asking questions. The danger was that they would work out who we were. Of course we could not let them know that we were Jewish, let alone Israeli.” Had they carefully checked his passport, he said, they would have realized he “frequently” visited Israel, he said. And if they had Googled him, they would swiftly have established his identity. “The problem is that there’s no one to turn to for assistance. You are alone. There’s no consulate or embassy…. You are completely in their hands, and you don’t know what they want to do,” Rosen said. “There is a kind of anarchy there. There is no proper government or police.” Rosen said his strategy was to be pleasant and confident with the captors and try to build a rapport, and that this ultimately prevailed. Rosen and his team were forced to leave behind their equipment and were told to leave their film as well. But they were able to make copies, and only left behind what they wanted to, he said. Read More August 2, 2012 No Comments

The Times of Israel August 2, 2012 Leading Israeli journalist Emmanuel Rosen and his crew were arrested twice and interrogated for four hours while filming a documentary in Libya on life there after Muammar Gaddafi. Had his interrogators established that he was Jewish — or more grave still, Israeli — Rosen said on Wednesday, safely […]

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