Wednesday, January 13, 2010


TV debate on Berber-Israel friendship association

Ahmed Adghrini, Secretary-General of the Moroccan Amazigh Democratic Party:

"With regard to what Yahya said, let me point out, first of all, that he is defending Arab identity, which is of no interest to the Amazigh people. Arab identity is something particular to the Arabs, and does not concern the Amazigh, or North Africans of other identities. Arab identity is specific to the Arabian Peninsula and to the countries concerned with this, but not to the Amazigh or the non-Arab residents of North Africa. That's one thing. With regard to the Jews, I don't have to tell you that their history in our region goes back to 1000 BCE. The history of the Amazigh in North Africa goes back 2,957 years. In 40 years or so, we will have 3,000 years of history behind us, throughout which the Jews lived together with us. For the Jews too, Arab identity is of no concern, just as it is of no concern to the aboriginal residents of North Africa. He was talking about the Arab period in North Africa, whereas we go back thousands of years before that."

Fascinating debate on Al-Allam, an Iranian Arabic TV channel, in which a spokesman for the Moroccan Berber (Amazigh) Association, Ahmed Adghirni, puts up a dignified and reasoned defence of the Amazigh-Israel Friendship Association, to which this blog referred over a year ago. (With thanks: Lily)

Pitted against Adghirni is Yahya abu al-Zakharia, an Arab-Algerian writer. To him, the Jews of Morocco are not native to the Maghreb. They were the 'eyes of French colonialism', who betrayed the mujahaddin. They have shown ingratitude and lack of conscience and repaid Arab protection and kindness by joining Israel's security apparatus!The tension between the two is palpable. Adghirni states that the Association represents the humanist value of longstanding friendship, which 'Arabs had sought to replace with enmity and war'. He even accuses his interlocutor of antisemitism.Watch the whole thing!Transcript here


posted by bataween @ Sunday, August 12, 2007 0 comments

New Berber-Israeli friendship association

posted by bataween @ Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A new Berber-Israeli friendship association aims to develop relations between Berbers (also known as Amazighs) and Berber-speaking Jews in Israel.According to Boubaker Ouadaadid, a German teacher in Casablanca, the association aims to fight antisemitism in Morocco and to spread Amazigh culture among Jews in Israel."Where I grew up (in the country) there was no difference between Jews and Muslims. We were very close to our Jewish brethren. When I moved to Casablanca, I was shocked by people's attitudes. They were frankly antisemitic. For example they would say, lihoudi hachack. That's one reason why we decided to set up this association."The association aims to organise trips for Moroccan and Israeli Berbers (sic) to meet, encourage economic exchanges between the two countries and promote Israeli aid to rural Berber areas. It bucks the official trend, which aims to foster total rupture between the Moroccan state and Israel and runs counter to the pro-Palestinian sentiment prevailing among the Moroccan people.Ouadaadid, together with Brahim Amekraz, believes that the Palestinian cause has been exploited by the country's policies for personal gain. "We do not feel any animoisity towards Israel. The conflict is between Palestinians and Israelis. The war is taking place thousands of kilometres away. It does not interest us."The Jews who lived in Tinghir, Timit, Ouarzazate and Sefrou used to speak Berber and Hebrew. They sang in Berber at weddings or circumcisions.The founders of the friendship association hope to meet in August. They have members in Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes and Tangiers. In Israel, M. Ouadaadid mentions as his associates Dr Bruce Weitzmann, the researcher Moshe Benarouch and the journalist Mira Africh.

Read article in full (French)

Further reading on Amazigh (Berber) Jews


posted by bataween @ Tuesday, July 25, 2006 2 comments


In just 50 years, almost a million Jews, whose communities stretch back up to 3,000 years, have been 'ethnically cleansed' from Arab countries. These refugees outnumber the Palestinian refugees two to one, but their narrative has all but been ignored. Unlike Palestinian refugees, they fled not war, but systematic persecution. Seen in this light, Israel, which absorbed most of these Jewish refugees, is the legitimate expression of the self-determination of an oppressed indigenous, Middle Eastern people.

Th[e] [Jewish Refugees] website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities. It will attempt to pass on the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution. Awareness of the injustice done to these Jews can only advance the cause of peace and reconciliation.

(Iran: once an ally of Israel, Iran is now an implacable enemy and numbers of Iranian Jews have fallen drastically from 80,000 to 20,000 since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Their plight - and that of all other communities threatened by Islamism - does therefore fall within the scope of this blog.)

Departing Jews marked Egypt's 'cultural Holocaust'

A 'crushing, brilliant book' is how Alana Newhouse in the International Herald Tribune describes Lucette Lagnado's memoir, 'The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit'. The man in question, Lucette's father, never recovered from the experience of being uprooted, while the departure of the Jews marked 'a cultural Holocaust' for Egypt.
"In her new memoir, "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit," Lucette Lagnado relates how her father, Leon, first reacted upon escaping the dangerous anti-Semitic environment of Nasser's Egypt in 1962: "Ragaouna Masr," he cried, as their boat left the Alexandria harbor - "Take us back to Cairo."
"It's a sad moment, but one would be forgiven for finding it melodramatic. After all, we know how the story ends: the family settles in America and, judging at least by the ascent of Lucette, their youngest daughter, as a prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter, they presumably enjoy success and happiness. That this assumption is so far off the mark - that the reality of the Lagnados' fate is so far from the triumphalism that Americans have come to expect from immigrant narratives - is one of many reasons to read this crushing, brilliant book.
"Lagnado traces the story of a family so connected to Cairo that they held on until they were forced out, thankfully alive. "Alas, what no one could stop was the cultural Holocaust - the hundreds of synagogues shuttered for lack of attendance, the cemeteries looted of their headstones, the flourishing Jewish-owned shops abandoned by their owners, the schools suddenly bereft of any students." Some will blanch at her use of the word "Holocaust" here, arguing that only the World War II murders of European Jews are worthy of this term. But the wholesale destruction of Middle Eastern Jewish life, along with the even more devastating evisceration of individual lives, was nothing short of a catastrophe - and not only for the Jews.
"Leon Lagnado, like many others, had a love affair with his city, and "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit" is a story about what happens when two such lovers are torn apart. The man of the title is, of course, Leon. Fluent in seven languages and full of charisma, he was the consummate man-about-town. He spent his days immersed in a web of discreet business deals - all conducted in such privacy that even family members couldn't describe his profession - and his nights gallivanting at the city's hot spots.

"But Leon was also a good Jew, as it were, one who went to synagogue every morning. "It was as if two people resided within one sharkskin suit," Lagnado writes, "one who was pious and whose vestments resembled those of the priests at the Great Temple, all white and sparkling and pure, and the very different creature who led a secret, intensely thrilling life."(...)

"Lagnado is equally adept at maintaining suspense, particularly as the skies begin to darken for Egypt's Jews after Gamal Abdel Nasser's rise to power. Leon resisted leaving for a decade and then did so only after harassment and discrimination extinguished all hope for his family's future in Cairo. Beaten down, they shuffled weakly through Alexandria, Athens, Genoa, Naples, Marseilles, Paris, Cherbourg and Manhattan, before finally landing in Brooklyn. But an easy union between Leon and America was not to be. Heartbroken and infirm, he failed to impress the social workers and bureaucrats in charge of helping new immigrants, leading to a string of humiliations and failures. The "boulevardier of Cairo" never regained his footing, and the already thin threads holding his family together frayed irrevocably. Lagnado recounts the irony of their Passover Seder in Brooklyn: "No matter how loudly we sang, our holiday had become not a celebration of the exodus from Egypt but the inverse - a longing to return to the place we were supposedly glad to have left."

Read article in full
This review also in The New York Times
Interview of Lucette Lagnado in The Forward
posted by bataween @ Sunday, August 12, 2007 1 comments

First published 9-5-2007 at the original Islamic Danger Blog as

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