indigenous Jews

Tunisian Jews scapegoated in anti-austerity revolt?

A Jewish school on the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to one of North Africa's ancient indigenous Jewish communities, was attacked Jan. 9 as anti-government protests raged elsewhere around the country. Petrol bombs hurled at the school caused property damage but no injuries, the head of the local Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi, told Reuters. Trabelsi suggested the assailants exploited the fact that there was a reduced security presence in Djerba, as police were occupied elsewhere repressing anti-austerity protests. "Unknown people took the opportunity of the protests and threw Molotov cocktails into the lobby of a Jewish religious school in Djerba," he said. (Haaretz)

Spain: some justice for Jews; Moors have to wait

After years of debate and a 2014 referendum, the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudíos—yeah, that's right, "Fort Kill the Jews"—has officially changed back to its original name of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or "Jew's Hill Fort." It's believed that the town, in Burgos province of Castile and León region, was originally a Jewish town. Residents had to convert under threat of death (generally being burned at the stake) or exile under the 1492 Edict of Expulsion, and adopted the new name as a way of proving their loyalty to the Catholic kings. No self-identified Jews live in the town today, but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David. The city's mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez led the initiative, saying that the name was offensive to many. (No, ya think?) (NPR, June 23)

Diaspora Jews feel Gaza backlash —again

The Abravanel synagogue in central Paris is under police guard after more than 100 youths tried to storm the building July 13, chanting "Israel murderer!" The incident—near Bastille Place, on the eve of Bastille Day—followed a march protesting the Israeli air-strikes on Gaza. After the demonstration, a large group headed to the synagogue, where some 150 people had gathered for a memorial service for three Israeli teenagers murdered in the West Bank. Witnesses said the protesters grabbed chairs from a cafe nearby and used them as weapons as they tried to break through a police barrier outside the synagogue, where worshippers remained trapped for several hours. Six police and two members of the Jewish community were reportedly injured, and six protesters arrested. Some protesters were said to be armed with axes and knives. A private security unit employed by the synagogue was also engaged in the fighting. One day earlier, in the Parisian suburb of Belleville, a protest demonstration reportedly featured chants of "Kill the Jews!" The day before that, July 11, a firebomb was thrown at the synagogue of Aulnay-sous-Bois, another Paris suburb, causing damage to the building's facade. The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) reports that on July 8, a, 17-year-old Jewish girl was assaulted on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station by a man who blasted her face with pepper spray. The girl, identified by her initials, JL, wrote in her complaint to police that the man shouted: "Dirty Jewess, insh'allah you will die." (The Guardian, EJP, July 14; JTA, July 13)

Syria: massacres and hypocrisy

A massacre at Adra, outside Damascus, is being attributed to the Nusra Front, which on Dec. 16 may have killed over 100 civilians after seizing the town, targetting Alawites, Druze, and Christians. Some civilians were reportedly "saved" by regime army troops, who stormed houses where they were being held. These claims are aggressively plied by the official media in countries that back the Assad regime (Russia TodayVoice of RussiaTehran TimesXinhua) and the "alternative" media in countries that oppose the Assad regime (Antiwar.comIntifada Palestine—which is, very significantly, not based in Palestine, where Assad is actually very unpopular). The anti-Assad Linux Beach blog is skeptical about the claims, noting that the presumably more objective BBC News account put the death toll at 10, not the 100 attributed elsewhere to anonymous regime sources. Linux Beach also engages in the cyber-sleuth routine to argue that some photos supposedly taken by the jihadists of bodies they'd mutilated were actually recycled from other, unrelated atrocities (a trick the Assad-supporters are always accusing the mainstream media of). Linux Beach more astutely points out that the Adra claims come just as "the death toll from a 10-day Syrian regime air offensive on Aleppo rebels passed 400," in the words of AFP. Most have been killed by the regime's improvised "barrel-bombs," seemingly designed to win the maximum number of civilian casualties. ("Aleppo rebels" actually means rebel-held areas of the city; we may assume a high proportion of non-combatant deaths.) A Google News search for "Aleppo" brings up such mainstream US sources as the Washington Post, LA Times and CNN. Pretty predictable, eh?

Israel: attack on Ethiopian Jews' reproductive rights

We have noted before the systematic discriminaiton against the Ethiopian Jews, or Falash Mura, in Israel—including a recent move to abolish their traditional priesthood. Now a Dec. 11 report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency loans credence to long-standing charges of contraception abuse against the community. JTA cites a report in Hebrew on Israeli Educational Television, charged that coercive contraception is behind a 50% decline in the Ethiopian birth rate in Israel over the past decade. Israeli and Jewish aid officials are denying the report. Ethiopian women interviewed for the program, called "Vacuum" and hosted by Gal Gabbai, said they were coerced into receiving injections of Depo-Provera, a long-acting birth control drug, both at Jewish-run clinics in Ethiopia and after their move to Israel.

Mizrahi Jews as political cannon fodder —again

Seemingly in response to Mahmoud Abbas's initiative to revive a statehood bid for Palestine at the UN, Israel has launched an initiative to demand restitution for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This is explicitly portrayed as a means to head off moves towards a reckoning with the question of Palestinian refugees. The campaign was kicked off on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept. 21, with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon serving a pointman. Ayalon presided at the opening gig along with Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor. Also on hand were World Jewish Congress president Ron Lauder, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations vice chair Malcolm Hoenlein, and the indefatigable Alan Dershowitz. Ayalon wasted no time in cutting to the chase: "We won't achieve peace without solving the problem of refugees, including Jewish refugees. Justice isn't a term for just one side. The same criteria must apply to both sides." (Globes, Sept. 23)

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