New Middle East at a Glance-Leader by Leader: Part II
Arab leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing degrees and unrest. Israel National News brings you a brief review on what’s happening with the Arabs – and the Jews – in the various areas (Part I can be read here):
The Cabinet headed by prime minister Salam Fayyad submitted its resignation to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, and Fayyad was immediately re-appointed to head the new government. Abbas, whose Fatah organization runs the Judea/Samaria parts of the Palestinian Authority, has called for new elections "by September at the latest" – but Hamas, which controls Gaza, says it will not take part.
Only minor protests have been held, but the Abbas government has been under criticism for the lack of progress in the talks with Israel, for having reportedly made concessions to Israel, and in light of constant Hamas criticism.
Jews, by definition, do not live in the PA-controlled areas. This past December, Abbas said, “We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it." Months earlier, he even said that he would not agree to a single Jewish soldier in a NATO peacekeeping in the region, but later backtracked.
Though no acute danger faces King Abdullah's regime, he is experiencing popular protests, and his wife, Queen Rania, has been accused of corruption. A letter signed by 36 leading Bedouin representatives says that Rania must return land and farms expropriated by her family. The letter endorses several demands expressed by the Islamist opposition, and warns that Jordan "will sooner or later face the flood of Tunisia and Egypt, due to the suppression of freedoms and looting of public funds."
At the same time, Islamist voices are coming to the fore in Jordan; the country's new Justice Minister has praised the murderer of seven Israeli girls and called for his release from prison. The lethal attack occurred on the Israeli-Jordanian border in 1997.
Abdullah has formed a new government in response to the protests, and U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Jordan over the weekend to discuss current events with the leadership.
Jewish history in what is now Jordan goes back to Biblical times, when Moses granted permission to two and a half tribes to live there after taking part in the war for the Land of Israel. Over the centuries, the Jewish population dwindled to nothing. In the 1930's, leading residents of what was then Transjordan requested that Jews move in to help revive the economy – but the British, who ruled the area, did not want more Jewish-Arab problems, and passed legislation banning Jews from living there.
After the Kingdom of Jordan was created, it ratified this law in 1954, declaring that any person may become a citizen unless he is a Jew (or if a special council approves his request and he has fulfilled other conditions). Jordan has no Jewish community at present.
Underground opposition groups reportedly tried to organize Day of Rage protests on Monday, and have now rescheduled them for this Thursday. Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled the country since 1969, met last month with political activists and journalists, warned that they would be held responsible if they took part "in any way in disturbing the peace or creating chaos in Libya."
In 1931, 21,000 Jews lived in Libya - 4% of the total population - under generally good conditions. In the late 1930s, the Fascist Italian regime began passing anti-Semitic laws, and in 1942 – when 44 synagogues were operative in Tripoli - German troops occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi and deported more than 2,000 Jews to labor camps across the desert, where more than a fifth of them perished.
After World War II, anti-Jewish violence and murderous pogroms caused many Jews to leave the country, principally for Israel, and under Gaddafi's rule, the situation deteriorated so badly that only 20 Jews remained by 1974. In 2003, the last Jew of Libya, 80-year-old Rina Debach, left the country.
A video has been distributed calling for a protest to be held on Feb. 20 to demand "equality, social justice, employment, housing, study grants and higher salaries," as well as "change, political reforms, the resignation of the Government and the dissolution of Parliament." Analysts do not expect the campaign to succeed. Some have said that the Moroccan government may face unrest in the west, thanks to Algerian instigators.
Before the founding of Israel in 1948, there were over 250,000 Jews in the country, but only 3,000 - 7,000 remain today, mostly in Casablanca. In June 1948, 44 Jews were killed in anti-Semitic riots, and large-scale emigration to Israel began. Between 1961 and 1964, more than 80,000 Moroccan Jews emigrated to Israel; by 1967, only 60,000 Jews remained, and four years later, this number was 35,000. Today, the State of Israel is home to nearly 1,000,000 Jews of Moroccan descent, around 15% of the nation's total population.
In an attempt to head off protests, the Assad government withdrew a plan to remove some subsidies. President Bashar Assad gave a rare interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he said he to hold local elections, pass a new media law, and give more power to private organizations. A planned "Day of Rage" that was organized via Facebook for February 5 failed to materialize.
Large Jewish communities existed in Aleppo, Damascus, and Qamishli for centuries. About 100 years ago, a large percentage of Syrian Jews emigrated to the U.S., Central and South America and Israel. Anti-Jewish feeling reached a climax in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and some 5,000 Jews left in the 1940's for what became Israel. The Aleppo pogrom of December 1947, a pogrom in Aleppo – the third in 100 years - left many dead, hundreds wounded, and the community devastated. Another pogrom in Damascus in 1949 left 12 Jews dead. In 1992, the few thousand remaining Jews were permitted to leave Syria, as long as they did not head for Israel. The few remaining Jews in Syria live in Damascus.
Tuesday marks four straight days of clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in Yemen's capital, Sanaa. At least three people were injured on Tuesday as 3,000 activists attempted to march on the presidential palace. They are demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years. Protests have become increasingly violent. Besides poverty and unemployment, the Saleh government is grappling a secessionist movement in the south, rebellion in the north, and a regrouping of Al Qaeda on its soil.
Between June 1949 and September 1950, 49,000 Yemenite Jews - the overwhelming majority of the country's Jewish population - was transported to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet. Only a few dozen mostly elderly Jews remain in Yemen.
Amidst the Arab demands for the restitution of Arab refugees from the 1948 war, it is largely forgotten that around that time, more than 870,000 Jews lived in the various Arab countries. In many cases, they were persecuted politically and physically, and their property was confiscated; some 600,000 Jews found refuge in the State of Israel. Their material claims for their lost assets have never been seriously considered.