While the Nakba is marked every year with demonstrations and wide media coverage, the Jewish expulsion, heralded by the Farhud in Iraq 77 years ago, does not merit public or media notice, argues Zvi Gabay in the Jerusalem Post. It is about time it did (with thanks: Imre, Lily):
This despite the fact that its human and physical dimensions were larger than those of the Nakba (the number of Jewish refugees forced out of their homes was about 856,000, while the Arabs who left Mandatory Palestine numbered about 600,000).
Only on February 22, 2010, was the issue placed on the Israeli agenda with the enactment of the “The Law of Preservation of the Rights to Compensation of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Iran,” which states that any negotiations for the achievement of peace in the Middle East must include the subject of compensation for said Jews.
And only four years later, on November 2014, did a memorial ceremony take place in the president’ residence to honor the existence and expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries, according to a law adopted by the Knesset that year.
The attacks against the Jews in Arab lands occurred even before the establishment of the State of Israel. In Iraq, they began with discrimination, in the economy, in education and public life.
Afterward, Arab nationalism ignited rioting against the Jews, which came to a peak in the Farhud of 1941. Similar tragedies happened to the Jews of Libya, Aden and other Arab countries. In Egypt, a mass expulsion took place in the dead of night.
In Iraq, the combination of xenophobic Sunni nationalism and antisemitism produced a powerful hatred of the Jews.
This hatred was abetted by Nazis such as German envoy to Baghdad Dr. Fritz Grobba and pseudo-religious leaders such as Haj Amin al-Husseini, who fled from Mandatory Palestine and found in Iraq a convenient venue for his anti-Jewish activities.
The Jews were left with no choice but to flee Iraq and the rest of the Arab countries that they had helped to found and bring into the modern era with their contributions to government, the economy, medicine, education, literature, poetry and music.
Seven years later, the threatening anti-Jewish climate that prevailed in every Arab country was accompanied by inflamed anti-Jewish declarations broadcast on radio, and even from the podium of the United Nations. Government harassment and popular attacks drove the Jews of the Arab world to migrate en masse to Israel.
There were certainly Muslims in the Arab countries who did not support the attacks on the Jews, but their voices were not heard. The Jews were the scapegoats in internecine power struggles between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, just as today Israel is at the center of the struggle between the Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni states.
In recent years, a process of awakening can be discerned in the Arab world, especially among intellectuals, who recognize that it was not only the Palestinian Arabs who suffered a “nakba” but also the Jews of the Arab world.
For the sake of history and educating the future generations, a proper commemoration of the plight and the heritage of Jews from Arab countries should take place in Israel.
Palestinian leaders would do well to stop parroting slogans about “the right of return” and deluding their people, because there is no turning back the wheel of history.