George Deek: 800, 000 Jews intimidated into leaving Arab world
Why, of all jobs and professions he could pick, did Deek chose to align himself with one part of his identity, which is set in such a conflict with other parts of his identity? A key to the answer lies perhaps in the fact that stories like his can happen only in free and open societies. His decision to fight for Israel and pursue the career of a diplomat is in a way a fight for himself—a multilayered persona, struggling to find his own voice in a double minority situation: Arab in a Jewish state and Christian in a predominantly Muslim Arab world. Israel’s survival guarantees his own survival.
“If there is no place in the Middle East for a Jewish State, than there is no place for anyone who is different,” he said. (My emphasis) “And this is why we see today persecution of Yazidis, Christians, Baha’i, Sunni against Shia and vice versa, and even Sunni against other Sunni who do not follow Islam exactly the same way. The key to change is connected deeply to our ability as Arabs to accept the legitimacy of others. Therefore, the Jewish State is our biggest challenge, because it has a different nationality, religion, and culture. Jews pose a challenge because as a minority they insist on their right to be different. The day we accept the Jewish State as it is, all other persecution in the Middle East will cease.”
But at the same time, he continued, some 800,000 Jews were intimidated into fleeing the Arab world, leaving it almost empty of Jews. And the list goes on: When India and Pakistan were established, about 15 million people were transferred; following World War II some 12 million Germans were displaced; and only recently, more than 2 million Christians were expelled from Iraq. The chances of any of those groups to return to their homes are non-existent.
Why is it then that the tragedy of the Palestinians is still alive in today’s politics? “It seems to me to be so,” he said, “because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive. The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel.
“It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it, May 15, the day after Israel proclaimed its independence. By that the Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile. The Nakba in their eyes is the creation of Israel. They are saddened less by the humanitarian catastrophe of the Palestinians, and more by the revival of the Jewish state. In other words: they do not mourn the fact that my cousins are Jordanians, they mourn the fact that I am an Israeli.”
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