How can Israeli coexistence initiatives between Jews and Arabs succeed if Jewish refugees from Arab countries are absent from 'the narrative'? says Janet Dallal, who witnessed terrible persecution in her native Iraq. She tells her story to Deborah Danan of the Jewish Journal:
In 1972, 16-year-old Janet Dallal’s father was arrested in Baghdad
for the crime of being a Jew. He barely survived and was released in the
winter of 1973.
In April that same year, Dallal’s friend and classmate, Joyce
Qashqoush, was brutally murdered along with her parents and two brothers
when Iraqi members of the terror group Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine (PFLP) stormed Qashqoush’s Baghdad home.
“There was this feeling of dread all the time that tomorrow it could be me,” Dallal recalled.
Months later, when the Yom Kippur War broke out, Dallal’s teacher at
her Christian school told her students that instead of class, they would
go and cheer on a parade of Iraqi troops returning from the
“I stood on the terrace and chanted praises to ‘our heroes,’ ” Dallal
said. But doing so made her physically ill. Consigned to bed for three
weeks, Dallal thought her heart would explode with the tempest of her
emotions. Some of the Iraqi officers were her friends’ and classmates’
fathers, yet they were fighting Jews — and her own relatives — in
Israel. Two years later, she and her siblings fled to Israel.
Janet Dallal: the scars refuse to fade
Today, Dallal’s voice is still laced with the anguish of the scars
that refuse to fade. Part of the reason, she said, is because her story
— and that of close to a million others — never received the recognition
it deserved. The Jewish exodus from Arab lands “is a black hole in
history; no one ever touched it,” she said. “Our history is almost
deleted, our narrative is absent,” she said, before quietly adding, “and
we have mostly ourselves to blame.”
For decades, Dallal, like so many other Iraqi and Mizrahi Jews, was
silent about her past. Ironically, it was only when she became involved
in Israeli-Palestinian coexistence initiatives in 2011 that she broke
During one summit, the moderator began drawing parallels between the
Holocaust and the Nakba (catastrophe) — the term for the displacement of
Palestinians after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The discussion sparked Dallal’s ire. “It is forbidden to make that
comparison,” she said. “The Holocaust was the result of Nazi hatred
toward Jews while the Arab Nakba was the result of war and had nothing
to do with anti-Islamism or anti-Arabism.”
There are, however, parallels to be drawn between the Arab Nakba and
what Dallal calls the Jewish Nakba, Dallal said. “I use that term
because we too were entrenched in Arab culture and language,” she said,
adding that Babylonian Jewry had a rich heritage dating back 2,500
The coexistence summit, she said, made her realize, “I’m transparent,
I don’t exist. So how can there be coexistence if I don’t exist?” For
the first time, she delivered a stirring account of her suffering. The
moderator, she said, was diplomatic but aloof, vaguely promising to
include the topic in future sessions. Absurdly, Dallal said, it was the
Palestinians who seemed to be the most affected by her story.
Read article in full
How coexistence initiatives can hinder peace (Jerusalem Post)