Friday, May 13, 2011

Fighting their nakba propaganda with ours

Countering the massive tsunami of Palestinian nakba propaganda in London this weekend is one small association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa - Harif. Michelle Huberman explains the thinking behind their Jewish Nakba event - in Jewish News:

This Sunday, May 15 is the Palestinian Nakba day. More than one million people will participate in global sit-ins at Israeli embassies around the world. Palestinian activists have initiated a campaign aiming to harness the winds of change in the Middle East and instigate a third Palestinian Intifada. Activists are being bussed in from all over the country to Kensington High Street where they will congregate outside the Israeli Embassy.

It’s hard to know where to start to counter such a well-organised campaign. Looking at the various Palestinian websites, I am amazed at how much help is offered to individuals who want to set up their own Boycott Israeli Goods campaigns. Or workshops at the LSE on how to stop the JNF. The lists are endless. Only last weekend a group of local residents in Crouch End set up their own encampment on the pavement outside the local Waitrose with promotional billboards and were busy telling Saturday shoppers not to buy Israeli produce. Yes, in sunny Crouch End – only a 210 bus ride from Golders Green.

Well, one small Jewish organisation is offering a refreshing alternative to the intimidating campaigns. Harif – an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa - are putting on an alternative event on May 15th – The Jewish Nakba – to commemorate the ‘Jewish Disaster,' that saw nearly a million Jews forced to flee their homes in Arab countries.

It would be nice to believe the myths that they left their homes in pursuit of the Zionist dream, but 95% of my encounters have been with elderly people who have told me the horrors of escaping raging mobs with nothing but a single suitcase in their hand.

Jewish refugees from Arab countries will be giving their accounts of their exodus at the Harif event, and I hope readers of the Jewish News will also come along to listen and share their experiences. Tom Gross, the Middle East and media expert, will be there and I’ve been invited to run a session on how to raise awareness of this important issue - and how to use tools like the film: The Forgotten Refugees.

For centuries, Jews were dhimmis, a subjugated minority who could only achieve true equality if they converted to Islam. Many of my North African Muslim friends have told me about having Jewish grandparents. One wonders what percentage of Muslims had Jewish ancestors who chose or were forced to convert to Islam to have an easier life?

Thankfully, the ‘Jewish Nakba’ had a happy ending. Most of the refugees were absorbed into Israel where today they are full and free citizens. Jews from Arab and Muslim countries are now the face of Israel. Virtually none would choose to return to an Arab country. But many families struggled long and hard to rebuild their lives from nothing in Israel and the West.

Why don’t we know their stories? We are told that Jews and Muslims coexisted happily together through the ages. Here in London trying to tell the truth through film showings and testimonies at Jewish events is an uphill struggle. A blogger friend was told by one of our Israel advocacy organizations – “Jews from Arab countries are not sexy news.” She was stunned. “By 'sexy' I suppose he meant topical” she told me, “yet hardly a day goes by without some Palestinian, somewhere, telling how his land was 'stolen by the Zionists', as recently as... 63 years ago. Hardly topical, and yet the news media lap it up.”

I feel strongly that pro-Israel advocacy is simply not bringing Jews from Arab countries into the argument. Whilst this is the case, the Palestinians will continue to dominate the moral high ground and Israel will continue to be delegitimised. Until the international community addresses Jewish suffering and losses in Arab Lands as well as Palestinian losses, I can’t believe that the Middle East peace process can ever progress.

The wider community needs to be aware of how Jews in Arab countries were persecuted, interned and even executed before the majority found sanctuary in the State of Israel. Some 100,000 square kilometers of Jewish-owned land was seized or abandoned, four times the size of Israel, and hundreds of communities destroyed. Billions of dollars of assets were lost.

Read article in Jewish News (p 19)

The Jewish Nakba: Remembering Jewish refugees from Arab Countries, Sunday 15 May 2011, central London venue. Visit the Harif website for details.

1 comment:

jean said...

Wish i was there,

you are right, we need to be pro active on this point

Shalom from Paris