Article By Israel Bonan

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

The "Banana" Jews?

I just finished reading the article "Hitching a ride on the magic carpet" by Prof. Yehouda Shenhav; I am baffled at the callousness of its author. If the author's intentions were to destroy my peace of mind and serenity, I congratulate him, he succeeded with distinction.

I am a Jew born in Egypt currently living in America, so I speak with some authority when I suggest that no matter how you dissect it, analyze it, turn it upside down or right side up, when someone is incarcerated (during the 1967 Six Day War), beaten, humiliated, dispossessed of his basic human rights, of all his possessions and finally given a one way ticket to nowhere, stamped "Not to Return", after having lived in Egypt for 22 years, that person qualifies to be called something. Pray tell what should he be called, 'Banana'? Certainly not a freeloader taking advantage of the mythical 'magic carpet' of Prof. Shenhav.

That was only me, what about my parents who left behind their life savings, their peace of mind, their familiar surroundings, their lifelong friendships and all they held dear to join me afterwards; and when they left Egypt, with their passports stamped "Not to return" with a few Kilograms of clothes and less than 10 dollars each worth of money and jewelry, enough to feed themselves for a week in Egypt let alone in a foreign country, after having lived all they lives in Egypt, what should they be called, 'Banana'? Certainly not freeloaders expecting something, for nothing, as Prof. Shenhav suggests.

Prof. Shenhav tries very hard to deflect the plight of the Mizrahi Jews by quoting their vehemence at being accepted as true Zionists. Are they (the Mizrahis of Israel) then expected to deny themselves any basic redress of their plight in order to cave in to the pressures of belonging and of being accepted as true Zionists? Are the victims of the Holocaust, who currently live in Israel any less than pure Zionists, if they and their children accepted Germany's and Switzerland's compensations for the atrocities that befell them and their families? If some of the Mizrahi Jews do not wish to be designated as 'refugees', because of their unique situations, so be it, it is their personal choice; as much as pursuing legitimate redress and still claiming true Zionism is. So I say, to each his own. The Exodus narrative in the Bible did not couch the status of the Hebrews while in Egypt, as anything but slaves, so I accept that I 'was' a refugee escapee from Egypt, and to call it anything else will be a distortion of facts; it is not what we once were that matters it is what we currently are and what we did with our lives that is of value.

Prof. Shenhav wrote: "Any reasonable person, Zionist or non-Zionist, must acknowledge that the analogy drawn between Palestinians and Mizrahi Jews is unfounded. Palestinian refugees did not want to leave Palestine."

Prof. Shenhav will have me believe that being thrown out with a tattered shirt on my back and a broken pair of glasses (broken intentionally, on my face) in my hand, was my choice. Nor were the years my less fortunate friends spent suffering torture in Abu Zaabal and Tura was their choice, and not even the massacres where dozens of Jews were killed and more wounded was by choice. Prof. Shenhav, it will take a lot more than inane spouting for me to believe that any of that was a matter of choice.

Speaking from both sides of your mouth makes your arguments vacuous, especially when every sentence that includes the word Palestinian invariably includes the word 'moral' or 'legitimate' while the request of the Mizrahis are 'immoral' or 'spineless accounting'.

One more point that needed emphasis, that Prof. Shenhav chose to ignore completely which has to do with the Mizrahis and their current status? Sorry, they do not live in tents, and their descendents are productive citizenry of their respective countries and most of all they do not harbor the level of hatred the original Palestinian refugees and their descendents currently manifest. It is for a simple reason, because more than one Jewish organization gave us the chance and the gift of the 'helping hand', and the rest was up to us to accept the help, move on with our lives, and succeed despite the hardships. Without that helping hand, we may have seen our hardships trebled, much as those of the Palestinian refugees.

So what you ought to call 'immoral', is the callousness of the rest of the Arab countries who chose to keep their brethren in their current sad and perpetually wanting state, instead of helping them become the dignified human beings that they are entitled to be, had they been given the needed help such as we had.

Israel Bonan, 23/December/2004

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