In Repressive Myanmar, the Tiny Jewish Community Enjoys Toleration

Jan. 15 2019

In Myanmar’s capital city Yangon, some 200 people, including the city’s chief minister and representatives of five local religious communities, attended a Hanukkah party this past December. Only about twenty Jews live in the city, but they enjoy tolerance, negligible anti-Semitism, and good relations with the local Muslim minority—who are spared the murderous persecution to which their coreligionists of the Rohingya ethnicity have been subjected. Charles Dunst writes:

The Jewish community here grew rapidly from the mid-1800s through 1942. At its peak, 3,000 Jews called Myanmar home, when it was still known as Burma and remained part of the British empire. Some rose to local power, like David Sofaer, who in the 1930s served as the mayor of Yangon, then known as Rangoon.

Jewish restaurants, pharmacies, and schools once marked the city’s streets. While these businesses have faded away, stars of David still adorn some buildings in Yangon: a school nearly 40 minutes from downtown; a skincare shop in the heart of downtown; a paint store across the street from the synagogue. . . .

Most of the Jews fled when Japan invaded the country in World War II, as the Axis power distrusted them for their perceived political alignment with the British. The majority of those who remained left in the mid-1960s, when the new regime nationalized businesses as part of a socialist agenda that would soon run the country into the ground. . . .

In the 1920s, the famed British author George Orwell, then a colonial police officer in Burma, recognized the Jewish presence there [when he] condemned British operations in the country for being “a device for giving trade monopolies to the English—or rather to gangs of Jews and Scotchmen.” . . . . Today, the [still-functioning] 19th-century Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon sits solitary in this land of golden pagodas and remains wholly unguarded in the city’s main Muslim neighborhood.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Burma, East Asian Jewry, George Orwell, Jewish World, Muslim-Jewish relations, Synagogues

The Palestinian Prime Minister Rails against Peace at the Council of Foreign Relations

On November 17, the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations, America’s most prestigious and influential foreign-policy institution. While there, Shtayyeh took the opportunity to lambast Arab states for making peace with Israel. Dore Gold comments:

[Perhaps Shtayyeh] would prefer that Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates declare the end of their conflicts with Israel only after all Palestinian political demands are met; however, he refused to recognize that Arab states have a right to defend their vital interests.

Since 1948, they had suspended these rights for the sake of the Palestinian cause. What Shtayyeh ultimately wants is for the Palestinians to continue to hold their past veto power over the Arab world. Essentially, he wants the Arabs to be [like the] Iranians, who supply Palestinian organizations like Hamas with weapons and money while taking the most extreme positions against peace. What the Arabs have begun to say this year is that this option is no longer on the table.

Frankly, the cracks in the Palestinian veto of peace that appeared in 2020 are undeniable. Shtayyeh is unprepared to answer why. The story of that split began with the fact that the response of the Palestinian leadership to every proposal for peace since the 2000 Camp David Summit with President Clinton has been a loud but consistent “No.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian Authority, U.S. Foreign policy