Sunday, August 09, 2015
Zvi Ben Dor on the tragedy of 'Arab Jews'
This 11-minute video, an interview with Zvi Ben Dor Benite, a professor at New York University, is more informative and less tendentious than its synopsis implies. Although he uses the fashionable term 'Arab Jew', an antonym which embodies two colliding nationalisms, Ben Dor later declares that Jews defined themselves as Iraqi, Egyptian and Moroccan Jews, and many of them were communists or even nationalists. Jews never imagined that they would ever have to leave their communities, but they were never given a choice.
The Jews have, however, left a legacy. Nostalgia in the Arab world is such that some 30 novels identified by Najat Abdul Haq, and published since 2006, feature Jews. Their departure is increasingly regretted in a less tolerant Arab world. There have also been sympathetic portrayals, as in the latest Ramadan TV series, The Jewish quarter .
On the other hand, the concept of an exchange of populations between Iraqi Jews and Palestinian Arabs along the lines of the Greek-Turkish exchange of 1923-4 was being bandied about before the establishment of Israel.
The Israeli government has reluctantly begun pushing the idea that almost a million Jews from Arab countries were refugees and not Zionist idealists. Zvi Ben Dor Benite claims that it was not a mass exodus because the flight of the Jews took place over more than 40 years: but 90 percent of the Jews did leave within just a few years. The remnant communities of the 70s did not leave before because were kept as hostages by Arab governments.