Thursday, 20 March 2014
Whilst yesterday's political attention was mostly on the budget, in committee room 10 at 7pm, there was a briefing organised by Harif/We believe in Israel/Henry Jackson society, on Jewish refugees [from the middle east and north africa]. There was contributions from Dr Stanley A Urman (chief executive of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries),Edwin Shuker of the Board of Deputies as well first hand testimonies from people who had been forced to become refugees.
For the casual reader might not know this, but the Jews of Arab lands ,who had settled there since the Spanish expelled Jews from Spain five hundred years before and other communities who had been in the region for thousands of years, long before Christianity and well before Islam, were from 1948 subject to ethnic cleansing, pogroms, arrests, torture, forced expulsions and seizure of property. Why? Because of Arab ethnic hate toward Jews and because they had been thoroughly beaten in 1948 when the combined might of the Arab world failed to crush the newly formed & tiny state of Israel. Whilst you will hear much about the plight of Palestinian refugees in the media, you hardly ever hear of the plight of Middle Eastern Jewry, even though 850,000 plus Jews were made refugees, as against 730,000 Arab Palestinians (who left voluntarily as it happens, because they were expecting Arab armies to slaughter every Jew in Palestine so they would return victorious).
As our mother's side of the family were Sephardic/ Mizrahi Jews, our family were one of those caught up in this; some came to Israel, others America and for my immediate family the safe and welcoming shores of the UK. What gets me so angry is that our family was religious, Orthodox, but also modern. We were educated ,middle class, reasonably well off & were able to speak English, among other languages[this included our mum,as in the Sephardi world women have been able to learn as much as men] we had been settled in the wider region for centuries. And yet because of mindless bigotry they lost everything. It reminds and reinforces to my mind as to why Israel needs to be strong and not weak; it also reminds me that Britain has given our family much & we in return, that immigration can be positive for all concerned .
But that is there past. Today if there is going to be any peace voted through in an Israeli referendum, if there is demand for compensation from these Arabs who lived in Palestine (many of whom arrived there from Syria and Egypt precisely because of Jewish businesses), then one of the key clauses must be an apology by Arab governments on behalf of their fascist policies and compensation for the Jews of the middle east. I won't, however, hold my breath on that.