Should Jews Return to Iraq?

Dec. 20 2017

Last month, the current Miss Israel and her Iraqi counterpart Sarah Idan took a picture of themselves at the Miss Universe Pageant and posted it online. Idan subsequently has received numerous death threats and her immediate family has been forced to flee Iraq. Yet some Iraqi-born Jews are considering returning to their homeland, and there has been some reciprocity from the Iraqi side, as Ofer Aderet writes. (Free registration may be required.)

In December 2016, Iraq Day—a cultural exhibition organized by Iraqi students – was held at Imperial College, London. Prominent members of London’s Jewish community were surprised to receive an invitation to exhibit their books about the history of Iraq’s Jews.

“Our stall was the most popular one there and all the books were sold,” says the Londoner David Dangoor, who was born in Iraq in 1948 and left when he was ten. As he puts it, the Iraqi ambassador didn’t cringe when he saw that the books had been printed in Israel. . . Dangoor has already taken the first step to normalize his relations with Iraq [by gaining citizenship]. In London, he voted in Iraqi parliamentary elections. He says other Iraqi Jews have applied for passports too, but so far in vain.

“Many Iraqi Jews have good, warm memories of life there, which haven’t faded even after the [massive 1941 pogrom in Baghdad],” he says. “Many identify with Iraqi culture, music, and literature to this day.”

The Israeli author Eli Amir’s novel The Dove Flyer will soon be published in his native Iraq, where his books have been popular for years. His attitude is different. “I don’t think for a single moment of going back there, heaven forbid,” he says. “It’s over and done with. We have nothing to go back there for.”

Amir admits that when Iraq is mentioned in the news “it strikes a chord, but I also remember that the Jews were driven out of there as refugees with nothing. So I prefer my Jewish Israeli identity.”

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish World

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat