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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What's a naqba?

In the late 1940's and early 1950's, we had a population exchange in our region. But while one half of that exchange - the Arabs fleeing what became the State of Israel - was largely self-inflicted, the other half of that exchange - Jews fleeing Arab countries - happened perilously, with the fleeing Jews forced to leave all of their property and possessions behind. Michelle Huberman describes that Jewish flight here.
It would be nice to believe the myths that they left their homes in pursuit of the Zionist dream, but 95% of my encounters have been with elderly people who have told me the horrors of escaping raging mobs with nothing but a single suitcase in their hand. On May 15th their testimonies will be heard.

Matti Haron will be telling us how his grandfather lived as a Muslim in Iran and even went on pilgrimage to Mecca to hide his Jewish identity. For centuries, Jews were dhimmis, a subjugated minority who could only achieve true equality if they converted to Islam. Many of my North African Muslim friends have told me about having Jewish grandparents. One wonders what percentage of Muslims had Jewish ancestors who chose or were forced to convert to Islam to have an easier life?

Why don’t we know any of these stories? We are told that Jews and Muslims coexisted happily together through the ages. Here in London trying to tell the truth through film showings and testimonies at Jewish events is an uphill struggle. A blogger friend was told by one of our Israel advocacy organizations – “Jews from Arab countries are not sexy news.” She was stunned. “By 'sexy' I suppose he meant topical” she told me, “yet hardly a day goes by without some Palestinian, somewhere, telling how his land was 'stolen by the Zionists', as recently as... 63 years ago. Hardly topical, and yet the news media lap it up.”

It is too late to save the Jewish communities of the Arab world. Hardly any Jews are left. But the turmoil in the Arab world gives us a golden opportunity to press for the rights of all non-Muslim minorities, and to insist on the legitimacy of Israel, which gave safe haven to the beleaguered Jews of the region. As far as the Israel-Arab conflict is concerned, acknowledging that there was suffering on both sides is the key to reconciliation.
Read the whole thing.

Yet there is something that bothers me about Huberman's piece. Huberman refers to the flight of Jews from Arab countries as a naqba (or nakba) an Arabic term that means catastrophe. When Israelis refer to the naqba, they are generally referring to the 'Palestinian' narrative of our war of independence, which sees the founding of the Jewish state as a catastrophe. The 'Palestinian' naqba unfolded very differently than the plight of Jews from Arab countries.

As I noted above, the 'Palestinian' naqba was largely self-inflicted (most of them fled voluntarily). What's worse is that the 'Palestinian' naqba continues to this very day due to the Arab countries' unwillingness to do what Israel has done and to resettle their brethren. Instead, the 'Palestinians' who fled from what is now Israel are held hostage in the vain hope of one day undoing the events of 1947-1949. That so many people are held hostage to a hostile dream born out of hatred is truly a human catastrophe.

For Jews from Arab countries, the 'catastrophe' does not continue. They are resettled here in Israel, and their suffering is not passed on from generation to generation except as stories describing their experiences. They endured a difficult time, but that time did not result in a catastrophe for them. They are - thank God - resettled in their homeland.

If I would call anything a 'Jewish nakba' - as Huberman titles her piece - it would be the plight of the Jews who perished in the Nazi crematoria of Europe, who had no place to go thanks to British connivance with the Arabs that refused to open the gates of the one country of the World that was willing to take those European Jews in and resettle them. That was (and is) a catastrophe, because those Jews, their would-be descendants and their communities are no more.

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At 9:06 AM, Blogger houdini said...

Now it's happening to the Copts


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