Grapevine: Balfour and the Brits

Life for Jews in Iraq became increasingly difficult with the rise of the Ba’ath Party.

President Reuven Rivlin (L) meets former secretary of state Henry Kissinger in New York (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin (L) meets former secretary of state Henry Kissinger in New York
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Journalists who were in frequent contact with former government and Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, who for the past year and a half has served as ambassador to the UK, will be able to renew their acquaintance with him this week when he comes home to participate in the comprehensive “From Balfour to Brexit” conference, which will be held on September 13 and 14 at Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The British connection with the conference location has been enforced by a large statue of Winston Churchill, who was known to be a great supporter of the Zionist cause, as evidenced from correspondence that he had with Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Among the senior British and Israeli officials who will convene at Mishkenot Sha’ananim this week are Lord Roderick Balfour; Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky; former British prime minister Tony Blair, who has been to Israel more than 60 times, meaning that he could literally call Israel his home away from home; former ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub; former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, whose parents were taken prisoner by the British Mandate authorities; along with several other well-known British and Israeli personalities who will discuss past, present and future British-Israeli relations.
Within the framework of the conference, the new Sir Naim Dangoor Center for UK-Israel Relations will be inaugurated at Mishkenot Sha’ananim by his son David Dangoor, former president of the board of the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi community, the oldest Jewish community in the UK, spanning back more than three centuries to its establishment in 1656.
Baghdad-born Sir Naim, died three years ago at the age of 101, and was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, only a few months before his death. He was the oldest person to receive a firsttime knighthood. The second of six siblings, he was the son of Eliahou Dangoor, who was the world’s largest printer of Arabic literature; and the grandson of Hacham Ezra Reuben Dangoor, who was the chief rabbi of Baghdad.
At the age of 17, Naim traveled to London to enroll in an engineering course at the University of London.
Following his graduation, he returned to Iraq and served in the army, where he became an officer. While in the army, he met his future business partner Ahmed Sefwat.
Although he had hoped to work as an engineer on the Iraqi railways, certain restrictions had already been placed upon Jews, and that particular career option was closed to him. So he and Sefwat went into business together, creating diverse industrial products. As their business grew, they moved into other spheres, such as property development and leasing. In 1947 Dangoor married his wife, Renée. The couple had four sons.
Life for Jews in Iraq became increasingly difficult with the rise of the Ba’ath Party, and Dangoor moved his family out but continued to travel back and forth for business until 1963. He was stripped of his Iraqi citizenship, and his business and property were sequestered. He settled in England and began rebuilding his life. His business acumen served him well, and, together with his sons, he developed a highly profitable property company.
Fearful that fellow Iraqi Jewish expatriates might lose their heritage and cultural identities in Britain, Dangoor founded a community center in Kensington for Jewish new immigrants from Iraq, and in 1971, in a sense following in his father’s footsteps, he began editing and publishing The Scribe – Journal of Babylonia Jewry with subscribers in 25 countries. The journal had a life span of 35 years.
Because he had done so well in England, Dangoor wanted to give something back to the British and in 1980 established the Exilarch Foundation, which has supported numerous causes and projects, mainly in the fields of health and education. Dangoor awarded scholarships to literally thousands of university undergraduates. He also donated a huge amount of money to cancer research in Britain.
The international Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s 17th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, which opens at the Sharon Hotel on September 11, will focus on the evolution of America’s counterterrorism policy in the aftermath of 9/11, 2001. The conference, which always attracts great Israeli and international minds, will have among its keynote speakers: Dr. Sebastian Gorka, former deputy assistant to the president of the United States; Manuel Valls, former prime minister and minister of interior, France; Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman; Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked; Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett; Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay; and MK Avi Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The conference will be hosted by Prof. Uriel Reichman, president and founder of IDC Herzliya; Shabtai Shavit, chairman of the board of directors of ICT; and Prof. Boaz Ganor, founder and executive director of ICT.
Conference participants from abroad will include: Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process; Brig.- Gen. Cindy Jebb, dean of the academic board, US Military Academy, West Point; Brian Fishman, lead policy manager, counterterrorism, Facebook, USA ; Commissioner Roger L. Parrino Sr., Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State; Dr. Jehangir Khan, officer in charge and director, UN Office of Counter- Terrorism; Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner for specialist operations, Metropolitan Police Service, United Kingdom; Weixiong Chen, acting executive director, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), UN Security Council; Noor Dahri, director, Pakistan-Israel Alliance, United Kingdom; Ana B. Hinojosa, director, Compliance and Facilitation Directorate, World Customs Organization.
The conference will be held from Monday, September 11, to Thursday, September 14. All keynote sessions will be held at the Sharon Hotel on September 11 and 12, and workshops will be held at the IDC Herzliya campus on September 13 and 14. A memorial ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11 and victims of terrorism in Israel and around the globe will be held on Monday evening, September 11, in the presence of Erdan and senior US officials.
In June 2012, then-president Shimon Peres awarded Israel’s Medal of Distinction, the country’s highest civilian award, to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, saying: “I am old enough to know that people are no less important than ideas.
The world has learned to say thank you, and the time has come for us as well to thank great people who have served as examples for the younger generation, so that we might pass on the message that every person can be as great as his deeds and his ideas.” The award was conferred on Kissinger at the annual Tomorrow conference, in which Peres brought together past and present political leaders, captains of industry, academics and cultural figures from around the world.
Kissinger, who had been chosen to receive the reward in recognition of his unique contribution to Israel and to peace in the Middle East, was visibly moved and almost wept as he spoke of the pride his parents would have felt to see him receive this particular award. “My parents would have been more proud of this honor than any other honor that came my way,” said Kissinger, now 94, who is due to be in Israel again this week to deliver a memorial address at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Wednesday evening, September 13, at one of several events marking the first anniversary of the death of Israel’s ninth president and the architect of Israel’s defense policies and industries.
Unfortunately, President Reuven Rivlin, who will attend a memorial event earlier in the day, has not seen fit to continue with the Medal of Distinction, and has not once awarded it during his three-plus years in office.
On Thursday, Blair, who was a great friend of Peres and saw him frequently during his many visits to Israel, will speak about Peres at a graveside ceremony on Mount Herzl. Rivlin will also speak at this ceremony. Over the past year, many world leaders in the course of visits to Israel have asked to visit the grave so that they could pay their respects to Israel’s elder statesman. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during his visit last month, even emulated Jewish custom and brought a special stone to place on the grave.
Guest of honor at the showing of the Factory 54 fall/winter collection last week was Israel’s Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, who rose to renown first as a runway model, then as Miss Israel, and more recently as Wonder Woman, in which capacity she has helped to enhance Israel’s image in the world. Factory 54, which imports the world’s top fashion and accessory brands, is owned by the Irani family, which was well represented at the show, along with many local celebrities, but none could quite equal the glamour and fame of Gadot, who is now a much-in-demand Hollywood actress, but who continues to live in Israel with her family.
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