MK Shimon Ohayon’s bill to establish a Memorial Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries may soon become law. It is essential if victims of the ‘2nd Exodus’ are to cease thinking themselves as ‘2nd-class Zionists’, he writes in YNet News: (with thanks: Jeremy):
The Americans like to
say, “Time is money.” In other words, one shouldn’t disregard the
present – because it’s worth a lot. I argue that for us Jews, the key
sentence is “don’t disregard the past,” not because it’s worth money,
but because it’s the foundation of our Jewish and Zionist identity.
The Talmud says that during the days of Alexander III of Macedon, the
Egyptians demanded that the Jews pay damages for the gold and
silverware borrowed from them before the people of Israel left Egypt,
which were never returned.
In response, a wise Jewish man argued
that the Egyptian demand for historic compensation should be answered
with a demand that the Egyptians pay the Jews damages for enslaving them
for hundreds of years without giving them anything in return. The story
ends with the Caesar’s ruling, which gave the Egyptians three days to
respond to the wise Jew’s claim. They decided, for their own benefit, to
withdraw their claim.
No property, no respect: Surprisingly, history appears to be repeating itself in our time. The
Palestinians often complain to the world’s nations about the damage
they suffered during the State’s establishment, when they say 650,000
people were forced to flee their homes, and they are therefore demanding
What they are “forgetting,” and what we should remember and remind
ourselves, is that immediately after the UN resolution on the
establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel on November 29,
1947, Arab states – led by the Arab League – began imposing sanctions on
the Jewish communities in their territories, accusing them of
cooperating with the Zionist enterprise in Israel.
In some of the countries, the Arabs rioted against the Jews and
plundered their property, and in other places the Jews lost their
workplaces and sources of income. As a result, the Jews were forced to
flee the Arab states in great poverty and leave all their property
In the 20 years after the State’s establishment, 850,000 Jews
immigrated to Israel from Arab countries without any property and
without any respect, and so glorious 2,000-year-old communities were
destroyed at once.
Jewish people don’t forget: It is a tradition among the Jewish people that one must not forget.
We do not forget the nations which rendered us good, and we do not
forget those which hurt us. The Jewish people do not forget the
injustices, even when they were carried out thousands of years ago.
We remember Amalek’s attack on us at our time of weakness in the
desert very well, as well as the ingratitude of Ammon and Moab who did
not help the people of Israel wandering the arid desert by handing out
food and water. We haven’t forgotten the deeds of the Nazis either, who
murdered one-third of our people in the past generation. A nation which
does not remember its past, and fails to draw the necessary lessons from
it, will be unsuccessful in dealing with what the future holds.
In the Knesset’ previous term, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
worked to advance the commemoration of the suffering of Jews from Arab
states, suffering which eventually led to their immigration to Israel.
In one of the conferences held on this issue, former US President Bill
Clinton suggested that the future fund for compensating Palestinian
refugees would also compensate the Jews forced to leave Arab states.
It appears that today too, as in the days of Alexander the Great,
bringing the past of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to the surface
will at once cancel the worthiness of Arab states’ current claims to
receive historic compensation for the damage caused to the Palestinian
Have you heard about 2nd exodus?In the current term I am working to further advance the issue by
submitting a bill setting a day to commemorate the Jewish expulsions
from Arab states. This bill was born during conferences in Israel and
worldwide, where I heard many Jews from Arab states tell the stories of
their banishment from their countries of origin.
But the stories of Jews from Arab states were shared even
earlier by the organizations representing the people who came from those
countries, including Egypt,
Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria,
Morocco and Yemen. They felt that the Zionist ethos is dedicated
almost entirely to the story of Europe’s Jews, skipping the painful
history of those who came from Arab countries.
Every Israeli child learns about the Kishinev pogrom, but has anyone heard about the Farhud in Iraq? Everyone remembers the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,
but hardly anyone knows about the Zionist underground activity in Arab
states. The education system teaches about the first exodus from
Europe, while the second exodus – the one from Islamic countries – is
missing from textbooks.