It is always disconcerting, at least to me, when I realize that many -- and I mean a lot of -- people still have no idea what happened to Jews from Arab countries before as well as after the establishment of the State of Israel.
Myself, (I am a Jew who was born in Egypt) as well as a lot of other Jews from Arab countries, we have found our voices, and we started to describe our own refugee plight to others, be it individually or in internet forums and lists.
Once in a while we come across a few who ask probing questions and who genuinely want to know about our experiences, while others only seek to dismantle whatever factual stories we bring to the discussions.
Of the questions that seem to pop up most often, two questions are most important to this discussion; because they are invariably asked to challenge and not to learn, to tear apart a conciliatory point of view or to simply present an in- your-face argument that purports to negate anything of value we may have contributed to the discussion thus far.
One, “…. Of course you have the right to return to Egypt, but do you want to? The Palestinians who lived in refugee camps since 1948 do! …”
The second, a bit more cynical than the first; “… Out of curiosity, where was your loyalty? To Egypt? To Israel? What about the Lavon affair? …”
Let us address the questions in sequence. The first question can also be parsed into two inter-related topics, the first, while we have the right to go back to Egypt, do we want to?; while the second half of the question deals with the flip side of the coin that the Palestinians do want to go back.
About the first half of the question, the implication here, we left for a better alternative; so are we disingenuous if we even dare to imply we want to go back?
In the process and flow of the question, the questioner takes a huge leap of faith, that even if we don’t want to go back, we left nothing of value that we can still claim as our own.
An unfortunate misconception, when factual history reveals the exact opposite. Our assets were expropriated, what we were allowed to take are a few Egyptian pounds and a few kilograms of clothes; all other belongings were left behind to be looted by the government at will.
So to merge the notion of not wanting to go back with not having any residual rights to claim what is our own; the questioner tries to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. Why not have the cake and eat it too?
Now, for the second half of the question; “… what about the Palestinians?...”. If they do have claims, and I acknowledge that they do; why should their claims be different from ours?
Regardless of the reasons why, for both sides, they have faced the same situation we faced, we got initial help and we were able to stand on our own two feet, shortly thereafter. A great many of the Palestinians were used as political pawns, to underscore a problem shared by both sides, and yet they were left as a destitute generation after another harboring ill will towards Israel and awaiting their return home!
Is there anyone even tallying how much was spent by the international community to keep them in such a perpetual state of need, as opposed to living with the dignity of a productive life they so deserved and could have attained, had they been helped by the Arab countries and absorbed in their mainstream.? And yet as a refugee myself, I still do acknowledge their claims.
Now to the second question, and it is indeed a cynical one. Here we were, born to parents that were born and raised in the country and yet we were not considered citizens of the country of our birth. Our ability to earn a living was curtailed, our assets were expropriated and we were forced to leave the country on a 24 hours notice nearly with the clothes on our back, and they dare ask where our loyalties were? Who’s cynical now?
And yet, we never harbored ill will towards the country, and still do not, we made and sustained lasting friendships, and never wished them as citizenry any harm. Was it our fault, we found ourselves torn between having friends and relatives living in both countries? Should we have been imbued with Solomonic wisdom and therefore be able to sort it out as clearly as the cynical questioner would wish us to do?
Let me draw a parallel to the Palestinian Arabs living in Israel, as full citizens; in the height of the second Intifada; did they even remain neutral? Where did their loyalties stand? How many of them attempted, conspired to or carried out suicide attacks against Israel? How did the Israeli government treat their lot in return?
But the cynical questioner is already pouncing with the Lavon affair reference. A lot have been written about the details of this botched up attempt to create mayhem to further distance the Egyptian government from the US & Great Britain; by blowing up mail boxes, movie theaters and the main Post office, in Cairo. At best a disorganized and ill executed attempt, that culminated in the alleged suicide death of two of the perpetrators, the death by hanging of several accomplices and finally the long term incarceration of the rest. And yet we as a community denounced it and we did not see it as representative of our wishes as a community at the time; how many Palestinian Israelis rose and denounced suicide attacks?
Better yet, I withdraw all the questions I asked above, because they were at best rhetorical; since I was merely making my points and clarifying where we stand vis a vis these all too often … I just have “one more question”.
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Replies: 1 Comment
"But the cynical questioner is already pouncing with the Lavon affair reference. A lot have been written about the details of this botched up attempt to create mayhem to further distance the Egyptian government from the US & Great Britain; by blowing up mail boxes, movie theaters and the main Post office, in Cairo. At best a disorganized and ill executed attempt, that culminated in the alleged suicide death of two of the perpetrators, the death by hanging of several accomplices and finally the long term incarceration of the rest. And yet we as a community denounced it and we did not see it as representative of our wishes as a community at the time; how many Palestinian Israelis rose and denounced suicide attacks?"
You should also ask how many Arabs in mandate Palestine rose up and denounced violent attacks against Jews.
The Lavon plan, whoever was its author, was one of those stupid ideas that can only have been conceived in some bureaucracy by people who never have to face the consequences of their actions.
It was rightly denounced by the Jewish community in Egypt and by judicial inquiry boards in Israel.
The retribution visited on the Jewish community because of this incident was out of proportion to the alleged crime and should also have been condemned by subsequent Egyptian governments. I am not holding by breath waiting for that to happen. They should at a minimum be required to pay compensation if Israel is required to pay compensation to the Palestinian Arab refugees.
, Saturday, June 10th
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