Caption: Displaced Iraqi Jews, 1951
Most people are unaware of the one million Jewish refugees from Arab lands since Israel was established. They don’t know how that these Jews suffered discrimination, pogroms and violence in places like Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia. They don’t know that most Muslim Arab countries have been ethnically cleansed of their ancient Jewish populations.
In 2014 Israel established November 30th to honor Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa whose stories, losses and trauma remain mostly forgotten.
Why is this important? There is pervasive talk of justice and reparations today, but Jewish refugees are not included. A local Jewish Federation has hosted a series about racial justice, featuring an Indigenous Educator and someone who labels herself as a white Ashkenazi Jewish Social Justice Educator. Is it reasonable to expect Jewish institutions to prioritize Jewish issues? Is justice served when it is applied to one group but not another? Are some justice issues more equal than others?
Jewish Institutions Prioritize “Social Justice” Over Survival of the Jewish People
NCCI members noted that their synagogues had no plans to honor the Nov 30th date. They attempted to bring the issue of Jewish refugees to light for adult education programs, with little success. At the last minute some synagogues advertised programs hosted elsewhere, but in other synagogues the topic was actively resisted. One reason given was that Jewish refugees are not perceived as suffering like other refugees are today; little attention is paid to the continued flow of refugees to Israel from the Horn of Africa, for example.
What would have happened if Israel had not taken in their own, when expelled from Arab lands? Would the UN have created a special program for Jewish refugees, as they did UNWRA? Why haven’t the Muslim Arab countries taken in their own, instead of inventing a “Palestinian” people and leaving them as a thorn in the side of Israel?