With boycotts against Israel in the news, Carol Gould reminds us that two can play at this game. Jews from Judenrein Arab and Muslim countries have plenty of reasons to boycott them – but they don’t hold grudges, she tells the South Bank Literature Festival:
My family could have boycotted anything and everything from the lands that had caused my grandparents to emigrate, but they never held grudges and assumed that in time great leaders would emerge to bring a better life to the people of the lands from which their parents had fled in terror. In the 1930s refugees from Nazi Germany and from the large list of Nazi-occupied lands arrived in the USA. Many of these included Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, where the Grand Mufti al Husseini had rallied his troops to join the SS and who had a thriving office in Berlin. These new immigrants to the USA went on to careers and quiet lives, holding no grudges against their many native lands. Until very recently it was an unwritten and sad fact that Jews could not join country clubs in many parts of America. So they started their own clubs. In a way my family, like millions of other ethnic groups, lived in their own neighbourhoods for their own peace of mind. Not quite apartheid, but there were boundaries.
Henry Ford, Walt Disney and Thomas Edison were not fans of my tribe and there is a legend that Edison, in his own loathsome manifestation of personal artistic boycott, petitioned the New York legislature to bar immigrants from operating film studios in New York and that is why Hollywood was born. The immigrant moguls Louis B Mayer, the Warner Brothers, Goldwyn, Lasky — the list goes on and on — set up in California and the rest is history. These men — and indeed refugees of other faiths in the USA – could have spent their lives blowing up cafes and subway trains and shooting rockets at churches but they got on with their lives and resigned themselves to the fact that they would never see their abandoned homes in the Old Country ever again.
From the seed of these immigrants came Leonard Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, Arthur Miller, Stephen Spielberg and hundreds of other performers, producers, composers and writers, not to mention Drs Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, whose polio cure changed the world. Billions of people across the world owe their lives to these men.
890,000 Jews who were tortured, lynched, burned and expelled from Arab lands after 1948 and who settled in other countries around the world having lost everything except the shirts on their backs went on to illustrious careers in the arts and other professions. Despite their anguish at the loss of their homes and businesses they and their progeny have made new, productive and non-violent lives for themselves in adopted lands.