Thursday, June 12, 2008

Setting the record straight in The Independent

Sara Cohen* writes an excellent rebuttal to a piece of malicious revisionist nonsense* in The Independent:

Long history of Jews in the Middle East

Sir: P J Stewart (letters, 11 June) claims: "There was never any mass migration of Arabic speaking Jews [in 1948] or in any other year." He says Yemenite Jews "left in bewilderment", Moroccan Jews were mainly "contented", and Algerian Jews left for France at independence in 1962.

As a Jew of Moroccan/Russian descent, I have to conclude that the letter-writer is either woefully ignorant or wilfully compliant in the revisionist history of the Jew in Arab lands. After the United Nations General Assembly partition plan in 1947, the rights and the security of Jews in Arab lands came under legal and physical assault. The rise of Pan-Arabism and independence in many Arab states resulted in a multi-state organised campaign against Zionism.

In Syria in 1947, anti-Jewish pogroms struck in Aleppo; of the 10,000 Jews who lived there 7,000 fled. Anti-Jewish riots erupted in Aden and Yemen; in Libya, Jews were expelled or their citizenship revoked, and in Algeria, the state authorities issued several anti-Jewish laws causing nearly all of the 160,000 Algerian Jews to flee the country. About 800,000 Jews were forced to flee their ancestral Arab homelands.

Successive Arab states and western left/liberal elites have a shared interest in eroding Judeo-Arabic culture, because this revisionism presents the Jews as alien to the Middle East, and as colonialists, thus denying the nationhood of the Jew.

Yet in reality, Jews and Arabs have a long, entwined and shared history. Indigenous Jews have been a continual presence for 2,500 years in the Middle East, including Israel and North Africa. They were there before the birth of Islam, yet people continue to misinterpret and misunderstand the strange history of the Jewish people. We have been expelled from almost every country we have ever lived in, a wandering nation destined to roam the earth for thousands of years, from country to country, continent to continent, sometimes tolerated, mainly persecuted.

So when the Arab states expelled their indigenous Jewish population a few years after six million Jewish men, women and children were incinerated in the crematoria of Christian Europe, these Jews from Arab lands were absorbed mainly into the land of Israel. Where else did the world expect them to go?

Sara Cohen

Hove, East Sussex

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