In a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague on Monday, European and American diplomats accused the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria of continuing to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people. A week earlier, Rafael Foley, the Deputy U.S. Representative to the United States Mission to the OPCW, said, “[T]he Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons on its own people despite its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.” The Assad regime has been accused of gassing Syrian civilians in the eastern suburbs of Damascus in August 2013, in which, the U.S. government assessed, 1,429 people were killed, including at least 426 children. In March 2015, six civilians were killed in a chlorine attack in the town of Sarmin; a video showing doctors failing to save the lives of three children under the age of four moved UN Security Council Members to tears. In the aftermath of the attack, Secretary of State John Kerry castigated the Assad regime, which, he declared, “continues to terrorize the people of Syria through indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, murder, and starvation.”
On Tuesday, the Syrian regime barrel bombed a hospital in Homs, killing seven people and wounding 47. The hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose director of operations said, “The bombing shows all the signs of a double-tap, where one area is bombed and then a second bombing hits the paramedic response team. This double-tap tactic shows a level of calculated destruction that can scarcely be imagined.”
Iran, alongside Russia, is a staunch supporter of the Assad regime and doubled down on that support last month, when it demanded that Assad be allowed to run in any future presidential election in Syria. Thousands of Iranian troops, as well as Hezbollah, Iraqi, and Afghan fighters, are on the ground in Syria fighting alongside Assad. Furthermore, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps created the National Defense Forces (NDF), an umbrella organization incorporating pro-Assad militias responsible for human rights atrocities, in 2013. The NDF, which consists of some 100,000 fighters, has been instrumental in keeping Assad in power, as the Syrian army has been a spent, demoralized force facing “dissipation and disintegration.” More than 250,000 Syrians have died in the civil war and more than 11 million others have been displaced from their homes.
On Monday, Israel commemorated the 20th century expulsion of ancient Jewish communities from across the Arab and Muslim world, Israel’s i24 news channel reported. The annual commemoration was first held last year, following the passage of a law by the Knesset designating November 30 as the day to memorialize the 850,000 Jews who were dispossessed of their homes both before and after the establishment of Israel in 1948.
The date was chosen for its significance to the refugees. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved the partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states. Following the vote, Jews across the Middle East were subjected to increased persecution at the behest of the Arab League.
In the immediate aftermath of the adoption of the partition plan, pogroms were perpetrated against Jews – on direct orders of the Arab League – in Aden, which had 8,700 Jews in 1948 (there were 45,000 in total in Yemen) and Syria’s Aleppo, which boasted a 20,000-strong Jewish community before the creation of Israel. …Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, an advocacy group for the Jewish refugees, has complied the histories of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands on a country by country basis. The group aims to raise awareness of the heritage and trials of these refugees, which have been largely unrecognized internationally. Notably, despite numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the United Nations has never held a single session to discuss their plight.
In Morocco, the number of Jews shrank from 286,000 in 1948 to 50,000 in 1968. In early 2015, there were no more than 2,500. In Algeria, the number went from 130,000 in 1948 to 1,500 in 1968, whereas in Egypt from 75,000 to less than 1,000 in the same period.
Former Knesset member Ashley Perry is one of the advocates working to change that. Perry wrote Monday in The Times of Israel:
To spread greater understanding of the issue abroad, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions, headed by Akiva Tor, we created a traveling exhibition that would be sent to embassies, consulates, Jewish communities and organizations around the world to print out locally and display at relevant events surrounding the date.Perry, who collaborated with Knesset member Shimon Ohayon to increase the Israeli government’s awareness of the issue, aims to make 2016 the “Jewish year of solidarity with the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.” If the Jews from Arab and Muslim lands are to get justice for their losses, Perry asserted, Jews “should inform ourselves about the history of the communities and their cleansing and extinction during the 20th Century.” (via TheTower.org)
Last year, tens of events were held around the world organized with the assistance of Israel’s embassies and consulates and the local Jewish communities. However, now more than ever, it is vitally important that the issue of the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa is studied and discussed in Jewish schools and educational and communal institutions across the Diaspora.