Shayna Zamkanei: Jews as refugees

With thanks: Daniel

Did Jews leave Arab countries willingly for Israel, or were they coerced?  In this podcast by the University of Michigan, Shayna Zamkanei tells how Jews in Yemen had carved the date of their departure into their doorposts. This she interprets as a sign that these Jews were uprooted against their will from their homelands.

Zamkanei, who as a university of Chicago student wrote a doctoral dissertation on the subject of Jews from Arab countries,  explains how the ‘ Jewish refugee’ narrative only took off in the 2000s when it was disentangled from the Palestinian refugee question and reframed as a human rights issue.

She brings up the fashionable issue of ‘discrimination’ faced by the new arrivals in both Israel and the US. She claims that it was because of ethnic tension that the Israeli government failed to assert Jewish refugee rights in the 1970s. (‘Discrimination’ in the US would have been quite a different matter, in my opinion. The Mizrahim  have made up a tiny minority of the overwhelmingly Ashkenazi US Jewish community and did not wish to integrate religiously with the majority Conservative and Reform streams. And they are not by nature ‘political’).

More about and from Shayna Zamkanei


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