What the Anti-Semitic Houthi Flag Means for Yemen's Jews

Published August 9th, 2017 - 12:55 GMT
The Houthi flag is clearly anti-Semitic, and has posed a major issue for Yemen's Jews.
The Houthi flag is clearly anti-Semitic, and has posed a major issue for Yemen's Jews.

God is the Greatest

Death to America

Death to Israel

Curse the Jews

Victory to Islam

The Houthi flag certainly does not seem to leave anything up to the imagination, and would almost certainly be considered hate speech in Europe. Anyone in the West supporting that side in the Yemeni civil war ought to think twice before flying the bold green and red banner which the Shia militant-political group fights under.

Inspired by the popular slogan in Iran, “death to America, death to Israel”, it takes things one anti-semitic step further by adding “curse the Jews”.  

Oddly enough, the Houthis have denied that they have any issue with Jews, but the Jewish community in Yemen has reported harassment and abuse at the hands of the armed political group. In the past 50 years, a population in the tens of thousands has become a tiny minority of less than 500, and Houthi anti-Semitism has played a major role in this.

 

 

Since the ousting of President Saleh in 2011 and the igniting of a brutal civil war in which the Houthis have been fighting with the help of Iran, hundreds of Yemen’s Jews have fled to Israel. Saleh was a dictator, and fell victim to the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring, but just like other dictators in the region, he was known for protecting minorities.

Yemen's Jewish population has been reduced, with thousands fleeing to Israel to escape persecution. (AFP/File Photo)

Much like was the case in Iraq or Egypt, the ousting of the leader who tolerated minorities spelled disaster for Yemen’s Jews. With the Houthis gaining ground in the country, the words stitched into their flag seemed ever more real as a threat.

There have been claims that Houthis persecute Jews in towns which they control, and have in some cases told them they must convert to Islam or leave the country. Jews have been attacked and killed, and have been the target of harassment campaigns and robbery. The tiny minority now mainly lives in a secure area of the nation’s capital, Sana’a, where the US embassy and various international companies are located.

 

The word for Jews, al-Yahūd, is often used to mean “Israelis”, and it is not uncommon to hear people in the Middle East saying that they have no problem with people of the Jewish faith, just with those in Israel. They justify conflating Jews in general with Israelis in particular by saying that everyone does it.

The reality is that regardless of what is said, Yemen’s Jews have been targeted purely for their faith and identity, and this has led to the extinction of one of the world’s oldest Jewish populations. The Houthis may be trying to show the world that they can administer justice and provide services in the areas of Yemen which they control, but for as long as their flag singles out an ancient religious group in their own country, their extremism will remain blatant.

 

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