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July 6, 2016 0

In Marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day, Senior Iranian Officials Call For Israel’s Destruction

As the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment com­mem­o­rated Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day on Fri­day, July 1st, which included the usual protests involv­ing the burn­ing of US and Israeli flags, some senior Iran­ian reli­gious lead­ers and gov­ern­ment offi­cials expressed their desire to see Israel’s destruc­tion. These pro­nounce­ments, some of which echoed prior com­ments made by Iran­ian Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Khamenei, included:

  • “Today the most impor­tant point for the Islamic world is unity against Israel and who­ever breaks this unity would be a trai­tor. Peo­ple of Iran never aban­don their goal. I hope that a third intifada will lead to the destruc­tion of Israel.” - Grand Aya­tol­lah Hos­sein Nouri Hamadani 
    Iran
  • “As the Supreme leader said: In 25 years we will be the wit­ness of the destruc­tion of Zion­ist regime.” — Com­man­der of the Iran­ian Army’s Ground Force Brigadier Gen­eral Ahmadreza Pourdastan
  • “We are get­ting close to col­lapse and destruc­tion of the Zion­ist regime. This regime is mak­ing all its effort to sup­port the ter­ror­ism and elim­i­na­tion of Mus­lims.” - Hos­sein Taeb, Iran­ian Shia Mus­lim cleric and cur­rent head of the Intel­li­gence Orga­ni­za­tion of Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution

The Al-Quds Day cel­e­bra­tions also fea­tured Iran­ian government-sponsored demon­stra­tions with harsh anti-Israel expres­sions, and anti-Semitic and anti-Israel car­toons were pub­lished in Iran­ian media outlets.

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March 9, 2016 0

Examining Zionism: Yesterday and Today

Zion­ism is a move­ment and ide­ol­ogy which has reli­gious, cul­tural polit­i­cal and prac­ti­cal mean­ing.  The con­nec­tion to Zion – Jerusalem – and the com­mit­ment to a national Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic home­land in Israel, the birth­place of Judaism, has been a source of inspi­ra­tion, a call to action, and a safe har­bor for Jews flee­ing persecution. Herzl bridge

But while Zion­ism is a pos­i­tive in the Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive, the term and move­ment has been the object of increas­ing demo­niza­tion and dele­git­imiza­tion. From pas­sage of the  “Zion­ism is Racism” res­o­lu­tion in the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly in 1975 (repealed in 1991), to recent charges by New York col­lege stu­dents that a “Zion­ist Admin­is­tra­tion” was respon­si­ble for high tuition, to British stu­dents call­ing polit­i­cal oppo­nents “Zios,” Zion­ism is used by some as a polit­i­cally charged term with neg­a­tive connotations.

Enter Col­lid­ing Dreams, a com­pelling doc­u­men­tary by Joseph Dor­man and Oren Rudavsky that exam­ines the mean­ing of Zion­ism and the his­tory of the build­ing a mod­ern Jew­ish state. Some­where along the 150-year path from Zionism’s ori­gins with Moses Hess and Theodore Herzl, to the present Israeli gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu, remark­able things, both amaz­ing and regret­table, have occurred in Zionism’s name.  With the birth of the State of Israel, the con­tin­ued sur­vival of the Jew­ish peo­ple was insured. At the same time, Pales­tini­ans have been per­son­ally and nation­ally impacted by this Jew­ish nation­al­ist movement.

The chal­lenges, com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives, incon­sis­ten­cies and messi­ness of Zion­ism are fully on dis­play in this doc­u­men­tary, from the con­tro­ver­sies over Israeli set­tle­ments, to the treat­ment of Pales­tini­ans, to enhanced mil­i­tarism and fun­da­men­tal­ism. But also in full focus is the pride, promise and com­mit­ment of what Zion­ism has meant and con­tin­ues to mean for so many, Jews and non-Jews alike.

For those who con­sider them­selves Zion­ists, for those who know lit­tle or noth­ing about the move­ment and its his­tory, and even for those who con­sider them­selves opposed to Zion­ism, Col­lid­ing Dreams offers much-needed his­tor­i­cal con­text with diverse nar­ra­tives. The film takes a rea­soned and fresh look at the con­flict, and pro­vides a truth­ful tale of achieve­ment and woe. And while the film makes an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the nec­es­sary dia­logue, what’s left is the ques­tion of the next chap­ter for Zionism’s future.

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August 5, 2015 0

Egypt’s New Interest in its Jewish Past

There has been much dis­cus­sion about  the recent Egypt­ian TV drama The Jew­ish Quar­ter, which depicts the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 1940s through a love story between a Jew­ish woman and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army officer.

ADL noted that despite some expec­ta­tions that it would depart from the usual anti-Semitic canards typ­i­cally found in Ramadan-period pro­duc­tions, The Jew­ish Quar­ter divides Egypt­ian Jews into two cat­e­gories:  “good” Jews and “bad” Jew.  The good Jews are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt.

At the same time, as flawed as The Jew­ish Quar­ter is, it appears to reflect a new inter­est among Egyp­tians in its once-thriving Jew­ish community.

Exam­ples include, the 2012 Egyptian-made film, Jews of Egypt , which doc­u­mented the  his­tory of the com­mu­nity and a num­ber of recent arti­cles which have exam­ined the Jews’ his­tor­i­cal role in the country’s success.

the jewish quarter egypt

“No one can deny the role played by Egypt’s Jews through­out its his­tory, a role con­sid­ered vital and impor­tant”, noted one arti­cle pub­lished in Egypt’s Al-Wafd news­pa­per (July 21), adding that “They’ve always been part of Egypt­ian cul­tural and social fab­ric”. Other news­pa­pers go even fur­ther in their superla­tives as they invoke promi­nent Egyptian-Jewish fig­ures from the past, such as leg­endary singer Layla Murad (who later con­verted to Islam and was out­spo­ken in her crit­i­cism of Israel),  a fea­ture about whom was recently pub­lished in the country’s Al-Yawm As-Sabi news­pa­per (July 13): “She is the voice of love in her days, in ours and in every day”, says the arti­cle. “She is capa­ble of bestow­ing upon you pos­i­tive energy through which to face life’s futil­ity; capa­ble of mak­ing you sense the beauty of life; and capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new heart between your ribs, one that will know a new mean­ing of love and life.”

Why is there now this renewed inter­est in Egypt’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity of seven decades ago?  An arti­cle pub­lished (July 18) about The Jew­ish Quar­ter TV series in Egypt’s most widely cir­cu­lated daily – Al-Ahram – sug­gests one pos­si­ble answer, which is that it’s not about the Jews in and of them­selves. Dr. Hala Mustafa writes, “Nat­u­rally, this isn’t a his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Jew­ish pres­ence in Egypt, but rather a demon­stra­tion of one fea­ture of Egypt­ian cul­tural lib­eral legacy. It is char­ac­ter­ized by diver­sity, wealth and plu­ral­ism in their fullest sense and exceeds the imme­di­ate polit­i­cal con­text. Jews were only part of a big­ger sys­tem which embraced cit­i­zens of non-Egyptian ori­gins and for­eign emi­grants, such as Greeks, Ital­ians, Arme­ni­ans, French and oth­ers. This nat­u­rally led to a mix­ture of West­ern and Ori­en­tal cul­tures, even­tu­ally pro­duc­ing a dis­tinct tol­er­ant Egypt­ian culture.”

It seems that in the midst of Egypt’s tremen­dous insta­bil­ity, with the country’s lead­er­ship mov­ing from sec­u­lar to Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and back again to a sec­u­lar regime; fight­ing Islamic ter­ror in Sinai; strug­gling over the country’s very ethos, the Egypt of the 1940’s sim­ply rep­re­sents a more lib­eral and tol­er­ant coun­try that some long for in these times of reli­gious extrem­ism and Islamic polit­i­cal awakening.

Whether this new inter­est will endure, much less trans­lates to a new approach to Jews and the Jew­ish State, remains to be seen.

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