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Over the years the Middle East narrative took a shape of its own, mostly and unfortunately with a one-sided slant. The world only heard about the travail of the Palestinian refugees, their woes, their troubles, their claims and their aspirations. The world also witnessed the Palestinian refugees as a disenfranchised people, scattered in camps, sheltered in tents and only as wards of the United Nation for over 40 years.

With such a perspective, the world could not but empathize with the disenfranchised, it is natural and it is expected, lest the world at large and its inhabitants (the human race) are judged as a whole, as callous and uncaring.

While this story was being told, its counterpart was not. The untold story is that of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who suffered in silence; but whose dignity was preserved expressly by their fellow Jews in their respective communities worldwide, and who extended their helping hands and absorbed them in their midst, be it in Israel (to the extent of 52% of the total population), Europe, US, Canada, South America or Australia, among other nations.

But make no mistake, they were refugees in their own right; they were physically dislocated, the accumulated wealth in their countries of birth, for most of them expropriated, and their emotional well being adversely tested by having to leave their familiar surroundings and their age old environment they were brought up in.


In recent years several organizations were formed to address the issue of redress for the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, and to bring the proper leverage in order to assert the more than 850,000 refugees right of acknowledgement and redress and to ultimately balance the historical narrative of the Middle East so it ceases to be as one-sided as it currently is.

The latest such organization is called Justice for Jews from Arab countries (JJAC), and it is endorsed worldwide by several major Jewish organizations for its charter that is basically focused around that very same goal, the acknowledgement of their plight and redress for the rights that is long overdue the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.

An integral part of the JJAC push for acknowledgement and redress, is that a few Jewish speakers (with origins from Arab countries) are chosen to discuss, in various forums (churches, synagogues, and schools), their own personal experiences, for the purpose of educating the audience about what really occurred historically and factually from 1948 until 1967 to the Jews from Arab countries.

My own experience was documented in A Personal Exodus Story and I use it as the main thrust for my speech. After a brief introduction, I select a few passages that I read to the audience, to reflect on the emotional and physical pain as well as the uplifting moments when as refugees we encountered one Jewish community after another who helped us cope with our dislocation and extended their genuine help to see us through the difficult times we endured.

All this narrative is in contrast with how the Palestinians were treated by their own people, used as pawn instead of being treated with the proper dignity they deserve and left them as wards of the UN for over 40 years. But that is ultimately left to be tacitly understood by the audience, who have so far only heard the one sided Palestinian refugee’s story. It is important that the audience reach their own conclusion after our side of history is disclosed.

I like to share with you the introduction to my speech (which will be delivered on various occasions and in different forums); the remainder of my speech is peppered with highlights from my own Exodus Story that you are welcome to read separately.

The following is the introduction excerpt for my speech:

Thank you for inviting me to address you today.

It is customary for a speaker to start by addressing what will be discussed and go about the business of discussing it. I for one would like to depart from such a conventional wisdom, for a moment, to instead discuss what I am not here to do, and proceed from there:

• I did not come here to tell you, the Palestinians refugees are not suffering or have not suffered. That would be callous on my part. Besides to deny their pain and suffering is to deny my family’s and my own pain and suffering.

• I did not come here to convince you that our (as Jews from Arab countries) suffering was a lot worse than that of the Palestinians, because again I am not. When it comes to pain and suffering, and experiencing it first hand, especially the pain of dislocation, and its attendant emotional pain, it is a totally irrelevant issue as to how big the boil on one’s psyche is. It is pain, and I recognize it.

• I also did not come here to make racist remarks about a people or adherents of any religion and use the current events to show any shortcomings and generalize it to any advantage. Because I am not. I have known and experienced anti-Semitism at its worst short of loosing life and limb, and I thank G_d that I am here alive speaking to you in person. And so I prefer to do unto others …

• Finally, I am not here today seeking neither sympathy nor empathy, I am reconciled to the fact that the world at large, and rightfully so, reserves such feelings for the “currently” disenfranchised and have no reserve empathy or enough attention span left for the successful amongst us.

Now why am I here then? I am here to share with you, and ask you to witness the fate of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries whose stories of suffering and dislocation are all but forgotten. I am here to share with you the stories of “The Forgotten Refugees”, as exemplified through my own personal Exodus story, from Egypt in 1967.

It took me more than 37 years before I was able to talk about my experience openly even with my own children, so why now? Because historical facts are being rewritten, as usual, by the Arab states which keeps repeating, that 850,000 Jews just up and left their countries of birth, old people, young people, healthy people as well as sick people; they just up and left. While we were 850,000 strong in the mid 20th century, now we count less than 5,000 at the turn of the 21st century, in the Arab world? We just up and left, no other reason, and no other explanation given.

For any history to be relevant it needs the full expression of what transpired during a given period. Short of that, such history will degenerate into a one sided fairy tale that slants the discourse and provides the future with an unbalanced view of such events.

It is for that reason that I found my voice in speaking to you today, because I need you to witness the full gamut of what transpired to complete the mosaic which we call history.

For how else can history explain 850,000 Jews once living in Arab countries being reduced to less than 5,000 today?

….

The middle section of the speech as well as the concluding remarks is drawn from my own Exodus Story . After which I will entertain questions from the audience.

….

Israel Bonan

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000076.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 12 Comments

Thank you Isi.
I really appreciate what you are doing for us.
Isaac Cavaliero

Isaac Cavaliero, Friday, June 2nd


Israel, this is a great narrative and will be of crucial impact as the story of the forgotten refugees is told. will be sure to disseminate.
kol hakavod. --simon

Simon Levy, Sunday, May 28th


ISI, U R VERY TALENTED IN UR WRITTING, IT IS A GIFT THAT U CAN EXPRESS URSELF IN SUCH A WAY OF SUSPENSE,ACCURATE DETAILS,THAT ONLY A PERSON WELL MINDED, CAN DESCRIBE THE PERIPETIES OF THAT INFORTUNATE SITUATION.
WHILE I AM WRITING I COULDN'T HELP
MYSELF THINKING ABOUT HOW MANY INNOCENT HUMAN BEING IN THIS WORLD GOT THROUGH THE SAME SITUATION OR WORSE AND DID NOT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THEIR STORY, AND I THOUGHT IN A WAY THAT U
SPOKED ON THEIR BEHALF.
IN FACT U WROTE FOR THE POSTERITY.
WITH UR PERMISSION OUR JEWISH TRIBE
HAS HER STORIES ALSO :
YR/-722 LES ASSYRIENS CHASSENT LES
JUIFS.
YR/1144 LA DIFFAMATION DU SANG EN
ANGLETERRE.
YR/1290 LES JUIFS SONT CHASSES D'
ANGLETERRE.
YR/1391 MOUVEMENTS ANTI-JUIFS EN
ESPAGNE.
YR/1394 EXPULSION DES JUIFS DE
FRANCE.
YR/1492 EXPULSION DES JUIFS D'
ESPAGNE.
YR/1881 LA PREMIERE VAGUE DE POGRO-
MES DES JUIFS DE RUSSIE.
YR/1938 TRAGIQUE "NUIT DE CRISTAL"
EN ALLEMAGNE.
YR/1940 EXTERMINATION DES JUIFS
D'EUROPE.
YR/1947 L'EXODUS REFOULE EN PALES-
TINE.
YR/1948 LA NAISSANCE DE L'ETAT
D'ISRAEL.
IN ALL THOSE PERIODS THE JEWS WERE
PERSECUTED AND WENT THROGUH THE SAME, LESS OR MORE, SITUATION LIKE URS.
U KNOW WHAT, WE DID NOT LEARN NOTHING OF THE PAST AND WE CONTINUE
TO ACT LIKE NOTHING HAPPENED, AND OUR CHILDREN WILL BEHAVE LIKE THEIR
PARENTS IN ISRAEL OR AT THE DIASPORA.
GOD BLESS U.
TINO

SABATINO MUSTACCHI, Sunday, May 28th


I AM PROUD OF YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU

LUCY KALAMARO, Saturday, May 27th


FINALLY I HAVE A PARTNER THINKING AS I DO-IT IS REALLY TIME TO SPEAK LOUDLY BEFORE IT WILL BE TOO LATE.
WE ARE THE LAST OF THE MOHIKANS-OUR CHILDREN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND EVEN WHY WE HAVE TO DO THIS- THANKS GOOD THEY ARE FAR FROM THE PROBLEMS BUT NEVERTHELESS WE HAVE TO MARK OUR STORIES IN THE HISTORY BOOK IN ORDER NOT TO FORGET US THE EXPELDED SONS OF THE NILUS

LUCY KALAMARO(EX BELBEL), Saturday, May 27th


Isi, very well said and not a moment too soon. It's incredible that the plight of 1 million Jewsih refugees from Arab countries was totally ignored. We were not only robbed of our material possessions but also of our dignity
Joe Rossano

Joe Rossano, Saturday, May 27th


Bravo pour la redaction detaillee de votre histoire...la mienne est un peu plus longue..en 1950 apres 2 mois de prison j'ai ete accompagne par 2 agents du "Mokhabaraths" jusqu'au bateau.. KOL TOUV ve BRAKHOTS...

Maurice ( Ice )Antebi, Saturday, May 27th


Bravo pour la redaction detaillee de votre histoire ...a chacun la sienne ...en juin 1950 apres 2 mois de prison j'ai ete accompagne par les agents du "Mokhabaraths" jusqu'au port d'Alexandrie...pour Marseilles..Mon histoire est un peu plus longue ...BRAKHOTS ve KOL TOUV !!!

Maurice(Ice)ANTEBI, Saturday, May 27th


Excellent presentation, Isi! well done. Keep up the good work and may justice be served, be ezrat Ha El.

Maryse Zeitouni, Saturday, May 27th


Yes Israel, speak also for my husband and his friends who were in concentration camp in Hukstep, Abou Tor and can't remember the name in Alexandria. They were all recognised as "Assirey Zion" or Zion prisonners, speak for the ones who didn't finish their studies, for the parents who died young and didn't "make it". Be our voice and our embassador. Thanks for all your efforts. (Behatzlakha)Renee

Renee Antebi, Saturday, May 27th


:D :laugh: :crazy: :Dexcellent speech very a propos.

Claire Berke, Saturday, May 27th


:D :) :laugh: :) :D :DA thousand hugs and kisses.

Claire Berke, Saturday, May 27th


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