Monday, September 03, 2012

The Arab Spring Islamist Governments Work To Destroy The Last Remnants Of Any Jewish Presence

When the Arab Spring first began, the usual suspects hailed it as the birth of new 'Arab Democracy'. And even when Islamist governments took over, the same suspects, notably in the Obama Administration assured everyone that these particular Islamists were pragmatists, and committed to democratic government, in spite of all the evidence that Islam and what we would think of as democracy don't really mix in the least.

Further evidence of what the Arab Spring and the accompanying Islamist governments are really about surfaced in how Tunisia and Egypt are treating the remnants of their Jewish communities.

Tunisia has an ancient community of Jews that once numbered 110,000 at its peak. Today, there are about 2,000 left. Under the old Ben Ali government, Tunisia's Jews enjoyed freedom of worship and relative tolerance. But with the new Islamist Ennahda government, that's changing rapidly.

Tunisia's new Islamist parliament is working to pass a law that will prohibit the import of religious books, kosher food, and even visitors from Israel, thus isolating the community:

In an interview with Makor Rishon, Rav Haim Biton, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in Tunisia said, “Today, the government lets us bring in food, medicine, religious and educational books from Israel. If this law passes, our condition will completely change.”

He continued on to say that they are trying to explain to the government that if the law passes, in a few months from now, their relatives from Israel won’t be able to visit, they will not have much needed kosher food items, and, of course, they won’t be able to bring in religious and educational materials.

Other community members were less optimistic as they believe this is the government trying to cut off Jews from their culture. “Behind this law to prohibit the import of kosher products and visiting relatives is their desire to cut off our connection to Israel,” they said.

In November, Tunisia passed a separate law limiting NGOs to importing medicine only from foreign sources in with diplomatic ties with Tunisia, which, obviously, excluded Israel.

Despite the fact that the new proposed law hasn’t yet been passed, Israeli citizens who have requested permission to visit Tunisia recently have been repeatedly turned down, while eight months ago, they could visit.

Reportedly Tunisian-born Israeli vice prime minister Silvan Shalom had previously appealed back in December to what's left of Tunisian Jewry to immigrate to Israel, but met some resistance even though there were signs that endemic Islamist Jew hatred was becoming more common. If this new law passes, it may be a matter of them getting out while they can.

In Egypt, the situation is different. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt actually had formal relations with Israel.

Egypt has already ethnically cleansed almost all of its Jews, with less than one hundred remaining in the country, most of them elderly. The two main communities, or rather what's left of them are in Cairo and Alexandria. The last Jewish wedding in Egypt took place in 1984, at the old Jewish synagogue is Chaar Hashamaim, in downtown Cairo.

In Alexandria there is a small community of 18 women and 4 men, all of them aged between 70 and 90. This year will be different for them because for the first time, the Islamist government of Egypt is not going to allow a Rabbi or Cantor from Israel or enough Jewish men from Israel to enter the country for Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur services at Alexandria's last remaining synagogue, Eliahou Hanavi.

Jewish religious worship requires a minyan, ten Jewish men in order to properly conduct services. Critical parts of the service cannot be done without it. This will be the first time in 2,000 years that there will be no minyan in Alexandria.

The remaining elderly Jews will attempt to hold services themselves, as best they can.

The Egyptian government justified this on the grounds of 'security'. What that actually means is, just as with the Israeli embassy in Cairo, they're unwilling to protect Jews coming in to Egypt to visit, or to allow a few elderly Jews a feeling of community as they have every year since the Israeli Egyptian peace treaty.

There's a frequent saying bandied about by people who call themselves liberals that a society can be judged by the freedom accorded the least of its members.

Considering that many of these same people are still agog over the Arab Spring, I'm curious about how they'd rate the so-called democratic societies of Tunisia and Egypt.

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