Friday, April 05, 2019

How Mizrahi Jews can help change the conversation

The conversation about Israel changes most drastically when there is understanding of the existence of Mizrahi Jews, writes Joshua Washington in the Times of Israel. He rightly points out that the Nazis and the Arabs shared the same genocidal aims towards the Jews in the 1940s. But in my view, the Nazi-Arab alliance owes more to European antisemitic  ideology than contempt for the 'dhimmi'. (with thanks: Michelle)

 Joshua Washington:'we need to be real'
A common ideology brings together the strangest of bedfellows. Just as early as 2017, we learned of the Neo-Nazis of Germany forming an alliance with Syria’s Assad Regime, and Hezbollah in Lebanon; hatred of the West and Israel being their common guiding principle.

One reason why the rebirth of the Jewish homeland is so important is because this evil ideology, though ancient, is very much alive today. 850,000 Mizrahi Jews were expelled from countries like Iraq, Egypt and Syria upon the rebirth of the nation of Israel, and 650,000 of them would still be refugees today had it not been for the Jewish State—the very state that Hitler and (the Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin) al-Husseini were very much against, a state that instantly became the largest refugee camp in the Middle East because of the expulsion of Mizrahi Jews from Arab lands. Over half of Israel’s population is Jews of color whose families came as refugees from Middle Eastern and North African countries. And much like their European brethren, they are returning to the land after centuries of being exiled.

Ironically, the same Arab lands that expelled the Jews immediately descended upon Israel to obliterate the nascent state. Arab leaders have always known the multi-ethnic makeup of Israel. They did not attack Israel because they believed the Jews to be colonial expansionists; they attacked because they could not bear the sight of the very people they treated as subhuman now having the dignity of having their own land again. This was also true for Hitler and the Jews living in Germany. That spirit of blind hatred has not gone away.

These historical truths are paramount in the Israel/Palestine discussion. Far too often, the discussion is based on the accepted narrative that Europeans came in and colonized the region, making Israel is no more than a nation of ‘fake white Jews’ who forced out and are now oppressing the Arabs. For 3,000 years, there has been a Jewish presence in the Middle East. Without a homeland, the Jews suffered through most of those years. In the discussion, Israel is not at all above reproach, but we need to be real. The lie that somehow, Jews just showed up in the Middle East in 1948 needs to die. There needs to be a better understanding of the reality that Israel is for Jews of all colors, and Jews of all colors live in Israel today. The conversation changes the most drastically, in my view, when there is an understanding that the Mizrahi people exist. I want to credit my good friends and colleagues at JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa for leading the charge on not only awareness, but also preserving the Mizrahi and Sephardic culture.

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