Jewish worshippers cover with prayer shawls pray in front of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 21. 2010, during the Cohen Benediction priestly blessing
This Saturday was designated by the Israeli government as a special day to commemorate the plight of the Jewish refugee from Arab lands, a tragic injustice that is largely overlooked. This omission may be intentional as it is an inconvenient truth the anti-Israel narrative cannot cope with. But behind this tragedy lies a story that is truly remarkable, representing an aspect of history that seems incongruous: the rich history of the Jews who lived among the Arabs.
Sass Peress lives in Montreal and works in renewable energy. In 2017, his father had a chance meeting he had with an Iraqi parliamentarian. His father had immigrated to Montreal at a young age and the Iraqi politician invited him to return for a visit, to which he responded that he had no interest in returning to the land of his birth except to visit his father’s grave in Baghdad. The cemetery had served the Jewish community for over 40 0 years but after most of the Jews left Iraq, many of the graves had been destroyed, bulldozed over when a road was widened. There was no reason for him to return to Iraq and his feelings towards the country were less than nostalgic. He responded to the kindly politician that, in short, he wanted nothing more to do with Iraq.
In 2017, Peress made a connection via social media with an Iraqi Muslim currently living in the UK. Peress commended Iraq on the victory of, Sarah Idan in the Miss Iraq contest and her representing her country in the Miss Universe contest.
It is important to note that in December 2017 Idan and her family were forced to flee Iraq due to outrage from many Iraqis over her posing for a photo with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman.
Through the wonders of social media, Peress was immediately contacted by one of the organizers of the Miss Iraq pageant. For the purposes of the contest, he asked Peress if he could connect him with David Dangoor who lived in Canada and whose mother, Renee, was the first Miss Iraq crowned in 1947. Peress was quite surprised since Dangoor was his cousin.
Renee Dangoor was openly and proudly Jewish, a fact that did not prevent her from being crowned. In fact, it may have even aided her. Iraqi Jews constitute one of the world’s oldest and most historically significant Jewish communities.
In a quid pro quo, Peress asked him if he was familiar with the Jewish cemetery in Baghdad and he responded that he was.
“Within 48 hours I had a photo of my grandfather’s gravestone,” Peress said. The image raised mixed emotions. On one hand, Peress was overjoyed to see that his grandfather’s grave was intact but he was dismayed to see that it was horribly neglected, covered with garbage and weeds. Through his new contact, Peress made a financial arrangement to clean up 150 of the more than 3,000 graves remaining in the Sadr Cemetery.
“I had to pay the gatekeeper, the police, the government guys,” Peress said. “Everyone has their hand out. I sent money and he sent photos.”
“But eventually, people started getting too greedy, so I stopped,” Peress said.
The events left Peress wanting to do more to honor his family’s long history in Iraq. He decided to hold a public recitation of Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer) and randomly chose a date; November 30. Coincidentally, the date had also been chosen by the Israeli government as the memorial day commemorating the tragedy of the Jews forced to leave the Arab countries and Iran where they had lived for millennia, solely because of their Jewish identity.
Last year, 18 synagogues in Canada, the US, the UK, Mexico, and Germany recited the prayers.
“This transcends religion and nationality,”Peress said. “No government should have the right to demolish your ancestor’s grave.”
Jewish cemeteries across the Arab world were vandalized or destroyed by Arab governments. The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein reportedly planted grenades among the gravestones in Sadr City Cemetery. The government under General Kassem (1958 -1961) refused to revoke an order to bulldoze the old Baghdad Jewish cemetery so that a highway could be built. Most of the tombs were destroyed, including the mass grave containing the remains of the victims of the 1941 Farhud (pogrom) that killed over 200 Jews.
The plight of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands is rarely spoken of, possibly because it offsets the plight of the Palestinian refugees from Israel. In January, the Israeli government decided to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel. Of the 850,000 Jews who fled Arab countries, approximately 800,000 settled in Israel. The descendants of these immigrants from Arab countries now account for a majority of Israel’s Jewish population. Only 8,500 Jews remain in these Arab countries.
The total area of land confiscated from Jews in Arab countries amounts to nearly 40,000 square miles — about five times the size of Israel’s entire landmass.
This claim by the Israeli government offsets a claim made by the Palestinian Authority ten years ago which sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel.
“The reality is that Jews from Arab countries were either incorporated into Israel or into other host countries,” Peress said. “Palestinians were not absorbed or accepted. They were encamped and used as a political tool. It’s the way that those countries decided to deal with the situation, perhaps in the hope that one day, Israel will be wiped out and the Palestinians will go back. This is the sad reality.”
The Jewish community of what is termed in Jewish sources “Babylon” or “Babylonia” included Ezra the scribe and was the source of the Babylonian Talmud. In the 20th century, Iraqi Jews played an important role in the early days of Iraq’s independence. Jews were represented in the Iraqi parliament, and many Jews held significant positions in the bureaucracy, which often led to resentment by the Muslim population.
The growing Iraqi Arab nationalist sentiment in the 1920’s included Iraqi Jews as fellow Arabs, but these views changed with the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian Mandate and the introduction of Nazi propaganda. Despite protestations of their loyalty to Iraq, Iraqi Jews were increasingly subject to discrimination and anti-Jewish actions.
After Israel became a state in 1948, the status of the Jews living in Arab countries changed. Anti-Zionist laws targeted Jews. Between 1950 and 1952, 120,000–130,000 of the Iraqi Jewish community (around 75percent) reached Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.