With the world’s obsessive focus on the plight of Palestinian refugees (who are the fattest, best fed and most educated of any refugees anywhere in the world) and with the current Middle East refugee crisis swamping Europe, it is of utmost importance not to forget the plight of the Jewish refugees who fled a hostile Arab world in 1947-48 after thousands of years of living amongst the Arabs.
Bataween of the blog Point fo No Return compares the ethnic cleansing of the Jews of the Middle East to the Arab refugees created in 1948 and remarks “In our major Nakba we are alone”:
Most of you will be surprised by this, but we Jews have a Nakba too, and it’s a major Nakba. It’s a Nakba which is marked on November 30, when we commemorate the expulsion and uprooting of about one million Jews during the 20th century from their homeland in the Arab and Muslim world. Thousands of years of Jewish presence in those countries, even before the era of Islam, had come to an end.
Unfortunately, our Nakba is private, as it has no international or even national support, it has no Israeli and foreign organizations which recognize it and work to raise Israeli and international awareness of its existence. It has no organizations to support it, write about it, interview us, photograph us, write scientific articles about us, the refugees who came from Arab countries.
The 30th of November was belatedly designated last year by the Israeli government as the annual Memorial Day for the Jews of Arab countries, and it was marked yesterday by the country:
Israel is marking on Monday its annual Memorial Day of the expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab states and Iran.
At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directed that there be an expansion of education on the heritage of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, and that consideration be given to a proposal to establish a Prime Minister’s Prize for academic research into the issue.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced to flee Muslim countries in the years preceding and directly after the 1948 creation of the State of Israel. Known collectively as Mizrahi Jews, the community has gained political power in recent years alongside increased recognition of its members’ refugee status and celebration of their cultures.
The cabinet discussion preceded a UN discussion of the subject scheduled for Tuesday. Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud) was scheduled to fly to New York City to speak at the UN session.
“For years, more than a million Jews lived in flourishing communities and had a rich cultural life in Arab countries and in Iran,” Gamliel said Sunday. “Our goal now is to tell their story.”
A ceremony held Monday in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem will be the main national commemoration event.
The commemoration was legislated in 2014 and the Memorial Day was first officially observed that year. The date, one day after the UN voted to approve the Jewish-Arab partition plan of Palestine on November 29, 1947, was chosen for its symbolic significance, evoking the pressure against Jews to leave their homelands amid the anger of the local Arab populaces over the vote.
Jews in Arab and Muslim countries started flocking to Israel before the establishment of the modern state but the number of refugees surged after 1947, mostly at the direction of the Arab League.
Flourishing communities from across the Middle East dwindled and in many cases disappeared completely.
Today Jews of eastern descent make up more than half of Israel’s population.
The Foreign Ministry will hold official commemorations through its branches around the world in an effort to increase international awareness of the subject, especially the rights of refugees to receive compensation for the property they left behind.
According to a report in Hebrew-language paper Israel Hayom, the official ceremonies held by Israeli delegations to various countries will strive to emphasize the fact that some 850,000 Jews escaped persecution in countries in the Arab Middle East, Iran, Turkey and Africa, a number exceeding the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who fled their homes in what became the State of Israel in 1948.
The Ministry for Social Equality has been documenting the revoked rights, stolen property and lost heritage of communities hailing from Arab countries and Iran since October 2009, before the commemoration was legislated.
Lyn Julius of the Harif Organization for Middle Eastern and North African Jews, writes about “Remembering the Jewish refugees on 30th November“:
Linda Hakim left Iraq for London in 1970. But she has never been able to shake off the fear she had felt growing up as a Jew.
She heard mobs in Baghdad, after Israel’s Six Day War victory, screaming ‘death to Israel, death to the Jews.”
She will never forget the TV spectacle of nine innocent Jews — some only teenagers — swinging from the gallows in Baghdad’s main square in 1969 as hundreds of thousands sang and danced under the bodies.
Even when her family had boarded the plane bound for London having abandoned their home and possessions, they could not let down their guard. The Iraqi police arrested a classmate of Linda’s and escorted him off the plane. Even today, every time she sees a police uniform, Linda’s heart races.
Linda found a haven in England, and her children have grown up in freedom, tolerance and acceptance. But in its obsession with Palestinian refugees, the world has never recognised the trauma that a greater number of Jewish refugees from 10 Arab lands and post-1979 Iran went through — human rights violations, wholesale robbery, seizure of property, internment, even execution. The ethnic cleansing of the Arab world’s Jews preceded the persecution of its Christians, its Yazidis and others.
Lyn Julius makes the following very important point how anti-Western Jihad evolved from the Muslims’ antisemitism:
Refugees like Linda and their descendants make up more than half Israel’s Jews. To-date, their voices have been muffled, their stories unheard, their rights trampled on.
The antisemitism they suffered in Arab lands is still with us today. It has morphed into religious jihad — whether in the stabbings on Israel’s streets or in an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.
Watch the 50-minute movie at the above link too.
Here is a shorter video (6 minutes) by the famous film-maker Pierre Rehov (who debunked the al-Dura hoax) about the Jewish refugees of the Middle East:
For more on the Jewish Refugees Commemoration Day, read my post from last year, including an extraordinary video of powerful speech by George Deek, the Israeli Ambassador to Norway, a Palestinian Christian whose family were also affected by the events of 1948. Here is the link. Read it all.
We must not forget! Nor must we let the world forget.