A Jewish refugee from Iraq, Linda Menuhin’s personal identification with the Palestinian refugee narrative came out naturally, even though the comparison disconcerted some Jewish organisations. Here is her post for the Wexner Foundation blog:
“My homeland is not a suitcase; And I am not a passenger.”
“With this quotation from the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, I started my testimony regarding my personal nakba (catastrophe,
in Arabic) at a UN conference marking the plight of Jewish refugees in
NY, last November. To the dismay of some members of Jewish
organizations, I identified with the narrative of Palestinian refugees.
As someone who experienced being a refugee from Iraq, it came out
naturally, even though I am a Jewish Israeli. Unfortunately the cause of
the Jewish refugees from Arab countries is not known in Israel, let
alone in the wider world.
“For the last decade, I have lent my face to this issue, which has been
cut out from the Israeli narrative (and from the international one as
well). While the UN has adopted more than 170 resolutions mentioning
Palestinian Refugees, not one single resolution mentions the Jewish
refugees from Arab countries. This Jewish suffering has not been
acknowledged even by the Israeli government because acknowledging
“olim”, who came because they had no other choice, (as refugees),
undermines the mystique of Zionism.
“Additionally problematic, those in
power also fear that raising the issue of compensation rights for
850,000 Jews from Arab countries would create precedence for
compensating the similar demands from Palestinian refugees. So justice
for Jewish refugees from Arab countries is ignored, even though their
average assets were several times bigger than Palestinian assets, and
the size of the land Jewish Arab refugees owned collectively is 4 times
greater than the size of Israel.
“I believe that Jewish refugee status from Arab countries, like the
Palestinian one, fits into the bigger picture of displaced people and
shifting populations, resulting from the upheaval of World War II. We
know about the tremendous suffering of Ashkenazi Jews. I would like
Israel, the Arab world, and the world at large to also acknowledge that
850,000 Jews from Arab countries were stripped of their citizenships,
threatened and persecuted. The majority ended up as refugees to Israel
not without leaving behind deadly casualties.
“Jewish Refugee Day”, like Yom HaShoah, can provide a corrective.
Accordingly, a couple of weeks ago I attended a special meeting
organized by the Knesset Lobby for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries
to vote for the draft of a bill calling on the Israeli government to
designate a special day in the calendar to mark “Jewish Refugee Day”
from Arab countries.
“I welcome the concerted efforts by senior US envoy Martin Indyk, who
has told US Jewish leaders that Secretary of State John Kerry is
considering including in his framework peace agreement, compensation for
the thousands of Jews forced to abandon Arab lands. Knowing the truth
serves not only for justice, but also, and more importantly, might build
empathy among two people who have equally suffered in this region:
Palestinians and ‘Arab’ Jews.