Why Jeremy Corbyn needs to know about Mizrahi Jews

 The author of a book on the treatment of Jews in
Arab and Muslim lands has spoken about how the leader of Britain’s opposition party, Jeremy Corbyn’s, understanding
of Middle Eastern politics and history is a “complete inversion of the
truth”, and has indicated that she would be happy to send him a copy of
her work to read. Danny Silverman reports for the Jewish Chronicle:

Speaking at the Limmud Festival, Lyn Julius, the author of Uprooted: How 3,000 Years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab World Vanished Overnight,
described how a knowledge of the experience of Mizrachi Jews – Jews
primarily from the Middle East and North Africa – may help the Labour
leader to “learn something new.

“It would certainly enhance the
prospects for peace if he were to have a less lopsided and negative view
of the Jews and Israel.”

Ms Julius, who is also the co-founder of
Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North
Africa, cited, for example, the widespread belief on the far-left that
Israel “is a white, colonial settler state.”

In fact, she said,
“half the Jews of Israel are so-called ‘people of colour’ – they have
their roots in Arab and Muslim lands. That’s just over 50 per cent of
the Jewish population of Israel.

“If Corbyn knew about Jews from
the Middle East and North Africa, he would learn that they were in the
region 1,000 years before Islam.”

Ms Julius also said: “The Jews
from Arab countries could have told both Corbyn and Livingstone that the
Ha’avara Agreement was not evidence of collaboration between Zionists
and Nazis, but that it was a desperate measure to save Jews. In the same
way, Israel made a deal with Iraq, with Yemen and with Morocco to
rescue tens of thousands of Jews in distress and airlift them to Israel.
This does not mean that Israel was in any way complicit with Arab
persecution.”

She also described how “the Jews from Arab countries know that the distinction between ‘Jew’ and ‘Zionist’ is a spurious one.

“Zionism
was declared a crime in Arab League countries. But how to define
Zionism? Does having a Magen David on a prayer shawl count as Zionist?
Does having a letter from Israel count as Zionist? Jews in Iraq were
arrested for having wristwatches, because the authorities thought they
were sending secret signals to the Zionists – and therefore the Jews
would be arrested and charged with spying.

“Sooner or later, Jews are persecuted for being Jews, no matter how much they declare that they are anti the State of Israel.”

She said she would be “definitely” be happy to give the Labour leader a copy of her book.

“It
has been suggested that I should do so, and maybe I should. The trouble
is, the chances of him reading are actually quite slim. Anything which
does not confirm his worldview I don’t think he would read – but I could
try.”

Ms Julius also called for the establishment of a museum in
Israel which would tell the story of Mizrachi Jews and how they were in
many cases forced to flee from places where they had lived for
centuries, if not millennia.

“There is a plan to build such a museum”, she said.

“Discussions
are going on at the moment as to exactly where it should be and what
should be in it. I think it would be a brilliant idea; visitors should
not only go to Yad Vashem, but be taken to this museum. But we’ll need
to wait a few years before it actually materialises.”

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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