Ron grew up in the South Bronx of New York, making Aliyah in 1980. Served for 25 years in the IDF as a Mental Health Field Officer in operational units. Prior to retiring was Commander of the Central Psychiatric Clinic for Reserve Solders at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring has been involved in strategic consultancy to NGO's and communities in the Gaza Envelope on resiliency projects to assist first responders and communities. Ron has written numerous articles for outlets in Israel and abroad focusing on Israel and the Jewish world.
The Farhoud Pogrom remembered
A vast Jewish Diaspora underwent a process of communal annihilation prior to Israel’s establishment and continued during Israel’s formative years, yet we Israelis rarely talk about or commemorate these historic events. On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, at least 800,000 Jews lived in Arab countries. Today, this ancient Jewish Diaspora numbers only a few thousand at best. These numbers alone should give us pause: Emigration of more than 99 percent of the Jewish population in such a short time is unparalleled in modern Jewish history. Even the Jewish communities of Europe, which experienced the most extreme suffering of anti-Semitic violence, did not vanish entirely, or so abruptly. The story of the Jews from Arab lands is a saga that extends over hundreds of years and over a vast geographic region.
More than 800,000 Jews lived in the countries of the Arab world at the time of Israel’s founding. Virtually all of them fled or were forced out of their homes and communities after Israel’s establishment with more than three-quarters of these Jewish refugees moving to Israel. The once-thriving communities they had established in places such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia shrunk and, in some cases, virtually disappeared. The Jews of these Arab nations were forced to leave behind most if not all of their property and businesses with no compensation other than being allowed to remain alive to flee.
Thousands of pages of testimony have been collecting dust in various government offices in Israel since the 1950s. Under the bureaucratic heading “Registry of the Claims of Jews from Arab Lands,” they tell of lives cut short, of individuals and entire families who found themselves suddenly homeless, persecuted, humiliated. Together they relate a tragic chapter in the history of modern Jewry, a chain of traumatic events that signaled the end of a once-glorious Jewish Diaspora. Yet for all its historical import, this chapter has been largely repressed, scarcely leaving a mark on Israel’s collective memory, ignored by the printed and broadcasted media. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab nations has not been on the agenda of the academic world always in tune to remain politically correct, proactively refraining from endangering the accepted false narrative of Arab refugees central to Palestinian Arab propaganda.
On the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, June 1-2, 1941; 79 years ago, the Muslim residents of Baghdad carried out a savage pogrom against their Jewish neighbors. In this pogrom, known by its Arabic name al-Farhoud, the pogrom of "violent dispossession" was carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad. Over 180 Jews were murdered and mutilated and thousands wounded; Jews were killed randomly, women and children were raped in front of their relatives, and babies crushed. Jewish property was plundered; homes, business, places of worship, communal institutions were looted, set ablaze and destroyed. Historians have referred to the Farhoud as being a pogrom associated with the Holocaust. The Farhoud has also been called the beginning of the end of the Jewish community of Iraq, propagating the mass migration of Iraqi Jews out of the country, of which the majority made Aliyah en masse to the newly established State of Israel.
The linking of the Farhoud to the Holocaust is based on historical record and involved Muslim leaders who fully identified with the Nazi regime and played an active role in promoting the annihilation of Jewry of the Middle East. At the time, under the auspices of the British Mandate representatives, a governmental commission of inquiry was established concerning the Farhoud, and determined that the Nazi propaganda of Radio Berlin had been one of the massacre’s foremost instigators. The first Arab-language Nazi radio station was launched in Berlin prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, broadcasting anti-British, anti-American, anti-Soviet, and particularly anti-Semitic propaganda. It thus helped spread radical anti-Semitism in the Middle East. The messages in the propaganda broadcasts were designed to achieve certain goals, such as winning the Arab population’s sympathy for the Nazis and the Führer, stoking Arab national sentiments, incitement against the Jews, and blaming the Jews for being behind all the Arab world’s calamities and failures. The commission’s report also identified the main individuals who had impelled the assault. It pointed to the extensive activity of Dr. Fritz Grobba, the German ambassador to Baghdad, and to the activity of the former mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Husseini, who had fled to Iraq from Mandatory Palestine in October 1939 and begun inciting against the Iraqi Jews. The mufti had also worked with Iraqi subversive elements, including Rashid Ali, to overthrow Iraq’s ruling Hashemite monarchy and install a pro-Nazi regime.
For those interested in further exploring the rich history of Iraqi Jewry, and learning more about the Farhoud, I highly recommend visiting The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, located in the central Israeli town of Or Yehuda. The Center was established in 1973 to preserve the history of the Jewish community in Iraq and to ensure that it remains part of the future narrative of the Jewish nation. The Center fosters research, preservation and publication of the culture and folklore of Iraqi Jewry. Adjacent to the Center is the Museum of Babylonian Jewry, opened to the public in 1988 and exhibiting chapters from the history of Babylonian Jewry throughout the generations over the course of more than 2,600 years.
New York City’s disastrous Democratic leadership
A reasonable observer would expect a minimum level of professionalism by the New York City Health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. One wouldn’t expect that someone charged with protecting New York City’s public health would instead endanger the well-being of New Yorkers by ignoring the severe health ramifications and the very real danger of the Corona virus. Yet, as most of the Democratic leadership of New York City was busy criticizing President Trump for deciding to impose travel restrictions on those entering the United States and dismissing the incoming threat of the coronavirus in February, this Health Commissioner, was quoted stating on in numerous TV interviews the following; "The risk to New Yorkers from coronavirus is low and ... our preparedness as a city is very high," Barbot said at a press conference supporting the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival. "There is no reason not to take the subway, not to take a bus, not to go out to your favorite restaurant and certainly not to miss the parade next Sunday [Feb. 9]."
The unprofessional behavior of New York City’s Health Commissioner, a Democratic Party appointee, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, has been labeled by many health officials as possibly criminally negligent. Under different circumstances she should have been forced to excuse herself and resign immediately pending further legal action. Over the past few weeks as we have witnessed the snowball effect of the rate of infection of the Corona virus, New York City officials in a Democratic administration should be held accountable for increasing the “risk” for the residents of New York City. They not only dismissed the Corona Virus outbreak and Pandemic seriously in its earlier stages, but actually encouraged unrestricted public behavior as if there is no danger of being infected, as if they knew what they are talking about. The human cost of the Democratic nonchalant policy has been deadly for New Yorkers.
Had this incredulous and negligent behavior by the Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, been an isolated incident, the risk might have been contained to a minimum level. Unfortunately, Mayor Bill de Blasio also failed to shield the residents of New York City, not only through inaction but largely through indifference. As the deadly Corona Virus emerged from China, invaded Europe and began to spread at an exponential rate throughout the world, the Trump administration was formulating national policies to deal with the high mortality rate expected from COVID-19 understanding that the situation was one of life-or-death. Yet at the same time Mayor de Blasio was busy criticizing President Trump for imposing border restriction into the United States so as to prevent the import of the Corona Virus through the airports and borders.
Mayor de Blasio’s indifference to the Corona virus threat probably contributed more to New York City becoming an epicenter of Corona virus infection in the United States even beyond than the actions of his criminally negligent Health Commissioner. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the media at one of his many and highly effective coronavirus response press conferences that he believed New York City schools should have been be closed. Mayor Bill de Blasio had consistently refused till then to shut down schools despite fellow Democrats in the tri-state demanding that he do so. De Blasio’s refusal to cancel school a week and more after most other districts in the tri-state had done so, contributed significantly to the acceleration of the outbreak of the Corona virus in New York City. An additional de Blasio decision that contributed to the pace of the outbreak had to do with instituting a significant reduction schedule in public transportation, primarily with the New York City subway system forcing unusual crowding among subway riders who were largely unprotected. One would expect that at the same time the Mayor instituted a significant reduction in the subway schedule, he would authorize the cancellation of alternate side parking or cancel metered parking encouraging those still working outside their home to use private cars so as to limit exposure to the potential danger of being infected on public transportation, instead his administration encouraged use of public transportation and continued to dis-incentivize the use of private cars. Alternate side parking was suspended only a few days ago and metered parking restrictions are still in effect as of this writing.
Mayor de Blasio’s incompetent response to the Corona virus along with his administration’s Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, most likely doomed New York City to a fate similar if not worse than Italy and Spain. De Blasio’s irresponsible and reckless delays probably cost many lives that otherwise could have been avoided. The number of infected, hospitalized, and deaths is rising at an exponential rate meaning the worst is yet to come for New York City residents; 36,221 cases of Corona infection in New York City, including 790 deaths ( as of March 29th).
In recent days with social distancing and forced stay at home guidelines issued by the Federal and New York State authorities, New Yorkers should expect a major reduction in infections and deaths over the coming weeks and months. The Democratic leadership of New York City would be wise to examine their policy decisions over the past month so as to avoid repeating similar decisions that can adversely affect the good people of the City of New York.
The Democratic Party’s Scapegoats for 2020
The expected scenario of two Jewish nominees in the Democratic Presidential race is for most American Jews that I have met during my winter visit to New York, not a source of pride, but instead a reason for uneasiness, fear, and downright anxiety. To make it worse, the majority of American Jews will vote on Election Day for the Democratic nominee placing themselves in a highly visible opposition to the majority of Americans who will be voting for the expected re-election of President Trump.
The last election that American Jews voted in significant numbers for the Republican Party and candidate Ronald Reagan was in 1980; from my encounters with my Jewish brethren in New York over the past two weeks, little chance that we will see a repeat performance of American Jewish voting patterns. In the 1980 election, America’s Jews strongly opposed the Democratic President Jimmy Carter due to his blatant anti-Israel policies and his lack of empathy for Jews in general. For many American Jews, Jimmy Carter was perceived as an enemy of the Jewish people.
In today’s highly venomous and politicized family discourse, more than a few of the many American Jews I met shared a sad reality of parents and children unable to talk to one another; family dining rules that prohibit any mention or discussion of President Trump, no d of increased hatred of Jews and violence against Jews as we approach Election Day.iscussion of Israel, and no expression of thoughts or opinions that question the progressive agenda. In many cases family events ended abruptly with grandchildren instructed by their parents not to speak with their grandparents.
Enter Bernie Sanders or Michael Bloomberg who seem to be headed to be chosen by the Democratic Party to challenge President Trump in the coming national elections. There has never been a Jewish presidential nominee in the United States. These two leading candidates are Jewish; Sanders a devout socialist, closet communist, and Senator, and Bloomberg a self-made billionaire and former Mayor of New York City.
With President Donald Trump as the Republican incumbent, a Democratic Jewish nominee will also almost certainly mean that the 2020 election campaign will be awash in anti-Semitic tropes, slurs, and conspiracy theories. The nomination of a Democratic Jewish nominee might very well set the backdrop for a period of increased hatred of Jews and violence against Jews as we approach Election Day.
This hyper partisan atmosphere did not start with the Democratic Jewish nominees ‘of recent days but has its origins with the Democratic Party’s decision to move ahead with the Congressional impeachment trial and House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to appoint Jews to head the impeachment trial in both Houses of Congress. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, announced on September 24, 2019 the commencement of impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The main congressional committees involved were all chaired by Jewish legislators: Adam Schiff (intelligence), Jerry Nadler (judiciary) and Eliot Engel (foreign affairs). In addition, several Jewish first-timers in congress, including Democrats Elaine Luria and Elissa Slotkin, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting impeachment. At center stage of the impeachment trial were Jewish Professors Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina. Chief Democratic legal counsel were also Jewish; Norm Eisen, and Daniel Goldman. Many of the Democratic Party’s cooperative witnesses were Jewish with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman being the most visible in their anti-Trump dispositions and testimony. On the Senate side, Senator Chuck Schumer had a minimal role due to the Senate controlled by Republican majority, but even here, a Jewish politician was perceived as belonging to the wrong side of the tracks.
House Speaker Pelosi isn’t stupid nor reckless and is far from being a political novice unfamiliar with the dynamics of national elections. She would not have given the green light for the impeachment trial and would not have announced a vote on articles of impeachment had she not believed that the Democratic Party would stand behind her, and had they not believed that’s it’s a lost cause and that President Trump cannot be beaten in the upcoming 2020 elections.
While Pelosi strong-armed Democratic moderates in her caucus during the impeachment trial, she couldn’t strong-arm the voters in their respective districts. Her decision to move forward with an impeachment trial was based on the assumption that many of those 31 Democrats seem destined to lose in November 2020. With her announcement that Democrats are to vote on articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed a political death warrant for dozens of moderate Democrats elected in Trump districts and signaled that the national elections are a foregone conclusion.
With the conclusion of the impeachment trial in the Senate, and the dramatic boost of support for President Trump in national polls, Bernie Sanders seemingly broke out of nowhere. Despite Sanders's age, his political socialist baggage, and his unworkable plan to "transform" America into Venezuela, all things that pretty well kept him from rising to the top earlier, suddenly all this didn’t matter. Sanders’ radical communist views have never mellowed, and yet, despite conventional thinking that under no possible constellation can he beat President Trump, Sander’s suddenly became the Democratic frontrunner. Also out of nowhere, suddenly Michael Bloomberg became the No. 3 Democratic frontrunner despite his poor yet irrelevant performance during the recent Democratic debate just days ago. Bloomberg represented everything Democrats hated; he was a billionaire, politically incorrect, repetitively accused of sexist and racist comments, paid his way into the primaries by paying off political hacks, and got the DNC to bend the rules to allow of increased hatred of Jews and violence against Jews as we approach Election Day. him onto the Democratic debate stage, and all this, by buying his way in with unlimited wealth.
The Democratic Party has brought itself into being in a no-win situation with their unelectable leading Jewish candidates Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg with a specific objective. For the Democratic Party and many of their base and what I would call their rabid followers, many of them anti-Semitic; the Jews will be blamed and held responsible, and the Jews will pay the price. Since the 2016 election, the Democratic Party has thrown even the kitchen sink at President Trump hoping that something would stick. President Trump, a street fighter has emerged stronger than ever heading towards a possible electoral landslide in 2020.
American Jews will be blamed and will pay the price, however, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Learning from David Ben-Gurion’s Pragmatism
Irrespective of the ambiguities and the “open to negotiation” provisions of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” Israel clearly stands at an historic juncture very similar to the Ben Gurion period. At the time, Israel’s political leadership had to either accept or reject the United Nations partition plan and decide what to make of this one-time historical opportunity. Undeniably, the “Deal of the Century,” represents an acknowledgment of Zionism’s historical triumph and that the State of Israel is indeed the embodiment of both the ancestral and modern day homeland of the Jewish nation. The “Deal” clearly recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided Capital of Israel, the Jordan Valley as the Eastern border of the State of Israel, and most importantly, demands of the Palestinian Authority to recognize the State of Israel as the homeland of Jewish nation. The “Deal” also recognizes the changes that have transpired over the past half a century and allows for the declaration of sovereignty over Jewish communities located in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has wisely refrained from joining many of Israel’s right-wing leaders who have rejected outright the “Deal of the Century” and refuse to even consider a partitioning of the land that will also enable recognition of the declaration of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. The strategic benefits of the “Deal” seem to evade their acknowledgment that the “Deal” offers Israel a one-time and historic opportunity that should not be dismissed outright. Ben Gurion had to deal with the same kind of mindset during the formative and history making period just prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The decisions made by Ben Gurion can and should provide important lessons for the dilemma’s facing Israel today as a result of the “Deal”. For Ben Gurion, his willingness to consider trading territory for political sovereignty is a the heart of why today’s right wing political leaders and Rabbi’s from the settlement movement refuse to consider this pragmatic approach. Jewish and Israeli attitudes toward territory reflect a dialectic dynamic that create two separate yet competing political movements. On one side you have the biblical, redemptive, and collective Jewish historical identity versus the more pragmatic, security sensitive, and economically viable importance on the other side. Ben Gurion belonged to the latter group, and from a historical perspective, despite his decision to relinquish important tracts of territory, his decision has been vindicated historically and Israel ended up over the years with a substantially greater sovereign territory mass that could even be imagined or contemplated by the rejectionist political leaders of the Yeshuv at the time.
Ben Gurion knew then what Benjamin Netanyahu knows today, and that’s the inability of the Palestinian Arabs to free themselves from the shackles of Jew hatred and inability to come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state. The manner in which the Palestinian leadership rejected then any and every possibility of comprise is identical to the Palestinian leadership of today. Then they rejected the Partition Plan, and today they reject the “Deal of the Century.” In the Palestinian perspective, the Jews have no right to anything, not a single square meter of land, not an iota of sovereignty, and no historical or religious claim or connection to the land. This rejectionist world view and refusal to come to terms with the success of the Zionist movement and the Jewish State causes them to make political decisions time and time again that create then and now what they call the "catastrophe," or the “Nakba.” Their evasion of responsibility to compromise explains why the Palestinians, have never been able to move ahead with their aspirations to establish an independent Palestinian State. Always responding with a Pavlovian reflex, the Palestinian Arabs have always consistently missed the pole goal blaming Israel for their stupor of wishful thinking and believing in their own “fake” propaganda.
Unsurprisingly and immediately after the announcement of the “Deal of the Century,” the long awaited American plan to move Israel and the Palestinian Authority towards compromise, and re-kindle the long dormant negotiations fell on deaf Palestinian ears whereby the leader of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen, responded with a complete rejection of any possibility of the Palestinians participating in negotiations with Israel. Abu Mazen was absolutely adamant in his refusal to recognize the changes that have transpired over the past quarter of a century since the signing of the Oslo Agreements in the Middle East and repeated the same old and irrelevant political rejectionist mantras such as Palestinian statehood in all of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, and the right of 5 Million Palestinians to flood into and live in Israel. Abu Mazen stated that the “Deal of the Century” is nothing more than an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into giving up self-determination, an outright lie and misrepresentation of the “Deal” that clearly empowers the Palestinians to establish an independent Palestinian State.
With the Palestinian Arabs placing themselves again at the mercy of history by rejecting the “Deal of the Century” from its’ onset; it is imperative for the collective Israeli political leadership who support Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt the pragmatic understanding of David Ben Gurion and accept partition as a first step towards redeeming Israel’s Biblical heartland and not a betrayal of the Jewish peoples birth right and of God’s promise. The “Deal of the Century” is not the end of the great Zionist dream but rather a continuation of a process which began in 1948, taking a big leap in 1967 and leading to our current reality with the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria rapidly approaching one million residents. Now is the time for all of us to be like David Ben Gurion, pragmatic.