Monday, December 07, 2015

London refugee commemoration draws 200 guests

Refugees are much in the news, but people are apt to forget that the Jews were one of the first minorities to be ethnically cleansed from the Arab and Muslim world. The exodus of Jewish refugees was a symptom of a deep psychosis  - an inability to tolerate difference.


So declared Lyn Julius, founder of Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa at an annual commemorative event in London for the 850,000 Jewish refugees driven from  the Arab world and Iran, one of dozens being held around the world.

Scenes from the Bevis Marks commemoration of 30 November show the 200 guests,  the Rivers of Babylon Quartet, Rabbi Joseph Dweck and the Harif organising team. (All photos by Nizza Fluss)

Panel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs exhibition conceived by Ashley Perry  and Akiva Tor,  on display at the London event.  If  you have a suitable UK venue for this nine-panel travelling exhibition please contact 

"Totalitarian ideological  forces which arose in the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century have bequeathed a legacy of genocidal bigotry and violence. That legacy is with us today," said Mrs Julius, "in the atrocities in Paris, in Mali, and in the stabbings on Israel's streets."

She asked for the Jewish refugees to be restored to history and memory from whence they had been expunged. No peace agreement could be signed between Israel and the Arab states unless it was based on truth and justice for the Jewish refugees, including compensation for property stolen.
Video of the full 30 November proceedings at Bevis Marks synagogue, London
Two hundred guests, Jews as well as Christians, attended the event in the candlelit splendour of Bevis Marks, Britain's oldest synagogue. Speeches were interspersed with oriental music played by Rivers of Babylon.

On 23 June 2014, the Israeli Knesset passed a law designating 30 November as an official date in the calendar to remember the uprooting of almost one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran in the last 60 years.

The date chosen was 30 November to recall the day after the UN passed the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. Murderous riots, coupled with state-sanctioned discrimination, soon resulted in the mass exodus of Jews from the Arab world, the seizure of their property and assets and the destruction of their millennarian, pre-Islamic communities. In 1979, the Islamic revolution led to the exodus of four-fifths of the Iranian-Jewish community. The majority of refugees resettled in Israel, where they now comprise over 50 percent  percent of the Jewish population.

The event was co-hosted by the S&P Sephardi community and supported by the Israeli embassy.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community, said it was fitting that the Commemoration should take place at Bevis Marks, which was built by Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish inquisition.

Rony Yedidia-Clein, director of Public Diplomacy at the Israeli embassy, said it was not too late  to tell the stories of the forgotten refugees. The commemoration in Israel and at the UN was being spearheaded by the minister of Social Equality, Gila Gamliel.

Niran Bassoon-Timan recalled how  escaping from Iraq in 1973 had split her family. She remembered feeling angry that her best friend Joyce Kashkoush had not come to say goodbye on the eve of Niran's departure. Later, she discovered that Joyce and her entire family had been butchered and their mutilated bodies shoved into the suitcases they had planned to leave with a few days later.

Richard Smouha drew attention to the immense contribution, now erased from memory, that Jews had made to Egypt. His grandfather Joseph had built an entire town called Smouha City, sequestrated by the Egyptian government. An Egyptian had remarked to Richard's brother Brian, "you're named after a city in Egypt. "No," Brian replied," the city is named after my family."

Haaretz article

UN events

In our major Nakba, we are alone

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