Monday, December 01, 2014

Press commemorates Memorial Day (updated)

Video released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showing Shimon Ohayon, the MK who introduced the law to commemorate the Memorial Day for Jewish Refugees (together with Nissim Zeev MK) addressing the Knesset lobby on the issue.  

On the eve and day of 30 November, the new remembrance Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries and Iran, a plethora of articles appeared in the Jewish and Israeli press. Here are some of them:

Travails of Jews from Arab lands finally recognised after 66 years (Jerusalem Post)
History was made Sunday, when for the first time in the annals of the state, official recognition was given to Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran.

The event, hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence, was the continuum of legislation that was passed by the Knesset in June this year designating November 30 as the national day of commemoration of the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran.

The date was significant in that it commemorates the day after the anniversary of the November 29, 1947 UN resolution on the partition of Palestine, which led to an immediate flare up of anti-Zionist action and policy among Arab states, resulting in the killing, persecution, humiliation, oppression and expulsion of Jews, the sequestration of Jewish property and a war against the nascent State of Israel.

Israel is observing the first annual National Day of Commemoration to mark the “exile and expulsion of Jews from Arab states and Iran.” The law establishing this commemorative day – adopted by the Knesset on June 23, 2014 – in part requires the Minister of Foreign Affairs to instruct Israel’s embassies abroad to “increase international awareness and recognition of the Jewish refugees from Arab states and Iran and their right to compensation…”

This commemorative day could not have been more timely and more necessary. For while it is a long-standing need – indeed imperative – to serve as reminder and remembrance of the pain and plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran – it also dovetails with – and must serve as a reminder for – the UN and the international community.

For Jewish Refugees, it's about recognition, not politics (Times of Israel)

Shortly after the establishment of Israel in 1948, Abadie’s parents were forced to flee Aleppo, Syria, where his family had lived for millennia, under government pressure. Abadie, born in Beirut in 1960, hit the road with his family as it moved again in 1971, this time for Mexico, when the PLO relocated its headquarters from Jordan, where it was no longer welcome, to Lebanon.
“We lived in Lebanon with no citizenship, as registered refugees. Our identity documents read ‘stateless,'” Abadie recalled in a conversation with The Times of Israel on Sunday.
November 30 has been designated by the Knesset as the official day of commemoration for the expulsion and flight of some 900,000 Middle Eastern and North African Jews since the creation of Israel. The Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa shrank from a population of 856,000 in 1948 to under 4,400 today, said MK Shimon Ohayon (Israel Beytenu), who drafted the bill.
“Two thousand five hundred years of Jewish history came to an end in 25 years,” Ohayon told journalists at a press event in Jerusalem. “In Israel, nobody knows this history.”

What about the Jewish Nakba? by Ben Dror Yemini (Y-Net News)

“If the Jewish state becomes a fact, and this is realized by the Arab peoples, they will drive the Jews who live in their midst into the sea.” This statement was made by Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, about a month and a half after the declaration of the independence, and with the Egyptian Army already having invaded the territory allotted to the Jewish state.

The Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, explained in his memoirs: “Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world.” 

And the Arab League at the time also adopted two decisions, which materialized into a bill designed to seize the bank accounts of Jews and strip them of their possessions – a bill that was subsequently put into practice among well-established and wealthy Jewish communities in places such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq. Entire communities were destroyed.

For decades, the Palestinians have nurtured the ethos of the Nakba. It has become the defining experience of Palestinian identity. Israel, on the other hand, chose to downplay the persecutions, expulsion and dispossession of the Jews of the Arab states.

Israel marks first ever national day for remembering Jewish exodus from Muslim lands by Ofer Aderet (Haaretz) (Subscription required)

Also at Jewish Forward

(Meir) Kahlon was born in 1938 in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The city had a Jewish population of 40,000 until 1948. His father, Shalom Kahlon, came to Tripoli from Al Khums (also known as Khoms), a town in northwest Libya on the Mediterranean Sea. There Shalom met his wife, Margalit Gita Fadlon. One of his uncles was the head of the Jewish community in Zuwara, on the sea near the Tunisian border. One of his ancestors was the famous rabbi Binyamin Kahlon.
Kahlon’s mother was killed in the Holocaust of Libyan Jews in 1942. “They came to take my father to the labor camps. My mother did not want to open the door. The Germans and the Italian fascists hit the door, my mother fell and died a day later,” he recounted.

Later the family fled Tripoli with the help of bribes and found refuge in Zuwara. “The Jews already did not feel safe in Libya, but continued to live [their lives], build and work. In 1945 133 of them were murdered in the pogroms in Tripoli, in which synagogues were burnt down and hundreds of Jewish businesses were destroyed,” he added.

When he was 8 years old, Kahlon’s older sister taught him the lyrics of the song by Yehoshua Friedman “A dunam here and a dunam there,” on the work of the Jewish National Fund: “I will tell you, little girl, and you, little boy, how it is in the land of Israel. Land is redeemed: A dunam here, and a dunam there, clump by clump – that is how we redeem our people’s land, from north to south. On the wall hangs a box, a blue box. For every cent that goes inside, land is redeemed.”
In 1949, when he was 11 and without his mother, he came to Israel along with his father and younger brother on the ship Komemiyut. In Israel he worked in a wide number of public positions and management roles – until he realized that the country had pushed aside his family history, along with that of many others who came to Israel from Arab countries.

“We were always of secondary importance. In the educational system they never asked me to tell the story of my mother and father. They did not worry about my learning it. It pained me. I was angry when they talked only about the pogroms, the suffering and the Holocaust of European Jewry, and not our Holocaust. True, the number of our Jews who were murdered was smaller than that in Poland – but it cannot be that for the matriculation exams they learned about the Kishinev pogroms and did not mention the pogroms against the Jews of Arab lands. In Libya they took people to the camps too. Libyan Jews also hid and suffered,” said Kahlon.
In his address, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon arriving in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.
“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.
The president also defended his decision to exclude singer Amir Benayoun from the event. Benayoun was disinvited last Tuesday from performing after he released a song that many criticized as expressing racist sentiment against Arabs.



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