Monday, October 05, 2009

Remembering Robert Capa's little Jewish girl

Magnum Photos

Who is this child? The photo was taken in 'Palestine' by the famous Hungarian- Jewish photographer Robert Capa in 1949.
Is she an Arab girl? In fact the little girl is a Jewish refugee from an Arab country who had just arrived in Israel. We need to change the popular perception that refugees in 'Palestine' are always Arab, not Jewish refugees, argues Michel Gurfinkiel in La petite fille de Cappa (Information juive, Septembre 2009). Moreover, the root causes of the Jewish exodus predated the Arab.

Gurfinkiel's article begins with a restatement of the basic facts: one million Jews in Arab lands in 1940, over 95 percent driven into exile. It was, he claims, not a backlash to the creation of Israel, but the Muslim world's revenge for the emancipation of non-Muslims under Western protection since the 19th century. The pendulum swung back to re-establish Muslim supremacy.

In order to demonstrate that anti-Jewish feeling predated the state of Israel Gurfinkiel focuses heavily on the terrible events of 1st and 2nd June 1941 - the Farhoud pogrom against the Jews of Iraq.

Following the unsuccessful pro-Nazi coup by Rashid Ali al-Ghaylani in March 1941, the Farhoud ('Dispossession') pogrom broke out. It seems to have been organised down to the last detail during the last weeks of the Rashid Ali regime, which was banking on Iraq entering the war on the side of the Axis powers. Jewish shops and homes were marked with a red hand. Units of 'pogromists' backed by soldiers and student members of the pro-Nazi Al-Futuwwa organisation were dispatched to every quarter of the capital. Several quarters were looted and burnt. Almost 200 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 wounded or mutilated, hundreds of women and girls raped.

Although Iraq did not have a common frontier with Israel, it took part in the first war against Israel. In March 1950, it passed a law permitting the Jews to emigrate on condition they were stripped of their citizenship, then their assets. More than 90,000 left in under one year. Over 90 percent of Iraqi Jews found shelter in Israel. The rest went to Britain and North America.

One should speak of an exchange of populations between the Islamic world and Israel, Gurfinkiel writes. The Islamic world started it, not Israel. One should make it clear that the Jewish refugees were integrated into Israeli society, while the Arabs were maintained as refugees for obvious political and strategic reasons.

Read original article (French)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

on Ashkenazi/Mizrachi liturgical differences and their roots in the expeirence of the two communites