Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My personal Nakba, by Linda Menuhin

A Jewish refugee from Iraq, Linda Menuhin's personal identification with the Palestinian refugee narrative came out naturally, even though the comparison disconcerted some Jewish organisations. Here is her post for the Wexner Foundation blog:
                                                   Linda Menuhin

"My homeland is not a suitcase; And I am not a passenger."

"With this quotation from the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, I started my testimony regarding my personal nakba​ (catastrophe, in Arabic) at a UN conference marking the plight of Jewish refugees in NY, last November. To the dismay of some members of Jewish organizations, I identified with the narrative of Palestinian refugees. As someone who experienced being a refugee from Iraq, it came out naturally, even though I am a Jewish Israeli. Unfortunately the cause of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries is not known in Israel, let alone in the wider world.

"For the last decade, I have lent my face to this issue, which has been cut out from the Israeli narrative (and from the international one as well). While the UN has adopted more than 170 resolutions mentioning Palestinian Refugees, not one single resolution mentions the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This Jewish suffering has not been acknowledged even by the Israeli government because acknowledging “olim”, who came because they had no other choice, (as refugees), undermines the mystique of Zionism.

"Additionally problematic, those in power also fear that raising the  issue of compensation rights for 850,000 Jews from Arab countries would create precedence for compensating the similar demands from Palestinian refugees. So justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries is ignored, even though their average assets were several times bigger than Palestinian assets, and the size of the land Jewish Arab refugees owned collectively is 4 times greater than the size of Israel.

"I believe that Jewish refugee status from Arab countries, like the Palestinian one, fits into the bigger picture of displaced people and shifting populations, resulting from the upheaval of World War II. We know about the tremendous suffering of Ashkenazi Jews. I would like Israel, the Arab world, and the world at large to also acknowledge that 850,000 Jews from Arab countries were stripped of their citizenships, threatened and persecuted. The majority ended up as refugees to Israel not without leaving behind deadly casualties.

"Jewish Refugee Day", like Yom HaShoah, can provide a corrective. Accordingly, a couple of weeks ago I attended a special meeting organized by the Knesset Lobby for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries to vote for the draft of a bill calling on the Israeli government to designate a special day in the calendar to mark "Jewish Refugee Day" from Arab countries.

"I welcome the concerted efforts by senior US envoy Martin Indyk, who has told US Jewish leaders that Secretary of State John Kerry is considering including in his framework peace agreement, compensation for the thousands of Jews forced to abandon Arab lands. Knowing the truth serves not only for justice, but also, and more importantly, might build empathy among two people who have equally suffered in this region: Palestinians and 'Arab' Jews.

Read article in full 

Linda's story: Baghdad casts a giant shadow

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