The Last Jew of Afghanistan and His Almost-Vanished Community

Since the death of his coreligionist (and rival) Isaak Levi, Zebulon Simentov has been the last Jew in Afghanistan. He still makes a living as a kosher butcher (local Muslims consider his meat halal) and as the proprietor of a kebab restaurant. He also gives interviews for a fee. In telling his story, Emran Feroz also offers highlights from the history of a once-sizable community:

On Flower Sellers’ Street, in the Kabul district of Shar-e Nao, everyone knows Zebulon Simentov—Zebulon the Jew, as most people here call him. . . . It is thought that 40,000 Jews were still living in Afghanistan in the 1930s. In the majority-Muslim nation, the minority was not only tolerated, but also enjoyed a special status. To this day, people retell legends claiming that the Pashtun, [the country’s dominant ethnic group], were originally descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel.

Ethnically speaking, however, the Afghan Jews were not Pashtun, but Persian speakers. More specifically the people in question are Bukharan [i.e., Central Asian] Jews who settled in Afghanistan centuries ago, primarily in the western part of the country, in the region around Herat. . . .

A large number of Afghan Jews emigrated upon the foundation of Israel, but many also remained. . . . It wasn’t until the start of the Soviet invasion of 1979 and the ensuing years of devastation that the Jewish population shrank rapidly. Most of them emigrated to Israel and the United States.

Read more at Qantara

More about: Afghanistan, Bukharan Jews, Jewish World, Mizrahi Jewry


Close the PLO Office in Washington

April 24 2017

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, and in order to facilitate futher negotiations, Congress carved out an exception to the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act to permit the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—a known terrorist group—to open an office in the U.S. capital. The legislation allows the president to extend this “temporary” waiver at his discretion—which every president since Bill Clinton has done. Shoshana Bryen argues that putting an end to the policy is a proper punishment for the PLO’s continued financial support for terrorists and their families.

[The waiver] was conditional on the PLO’s meeting its Oslo Accords obligations, including refraining from terrorism and renouncing international moves that would impede a bilateral agreement on final-status issues. . . .

In 2011, a Palestinian bid for recognition as a full member of the UN failed, but the waiver remained. Over U.S. objections, “Palestine” joined the International Criminal Court in 2015 [in violation of the Accords and thus of the waiver’s conditions]. . . .

[Furthermore], worried about foreign-aid payments from the U.S. and the EU, in 2014 the Palestinian Authority (PA) claimed it stopped paying salaries [to terrorists and their familites] and that future money would come from a new PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs. . . . [I]n 2015, a year after the PA “officially” transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, it also transferred an extra 444-million shekels (more than $116 million) to the PLO—nearly the same amount that the PA had allocated in the previous years to its now-defunct Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs. . . .

[T]he U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, PLO, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy