Don’t you dare to say the F-word

Don’t you dare to say the F-word. It’s rude. We just don’t do it. You’ll end up in the most terrible company if you say the F-word. You’ll become an outcast, a pariah. The F-word must not be said.

The F-word is Farhud.

You know (I hope): the series of assaults and violence against Jews and their properties all over Iraq, on 1st June 1941. More than 180 Jews were murdered, plus several hundred, unidentified, were buried in common graves; thousands of Jews were injured; more than 900 houses and buildings were looted.  The massacres had been instigated by Radio Berlin, which broadcasted anti-Semitic slogans in Arabic for months. Jewish owned shops were marked by nationalist youth, so that they could be identified and assaulted by the Arab mobs (Muslim owned shops were equally marked, and escaped the fury).

This was the Farhud, the beginning of the end of the one thousand year long history of Iraqi Jews. Since 2015 the tragedy is now commemorated at the United Nations, every year on 1st June, and this year is no exception, and this is the reason why I am writing this piece.  Like many other Jews in the world, Sephardi or not, I will commemorate the Farhud.  But there are those who plainly ignore the tragedy.

See for example the web site of Jewish Voices for Peace, the American organisation committed to “achieve lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis based on equality, human rights, and freedom”. They “believe that a just and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only happen through acknowledgement of the Nakba of 1947-9, which led to the creation of millions of Palestinian refugees”. On the whole of their web site, there is no acknowledgement of the Farhud. Clearly, the 1947 refugees enjoy a high place in the hierarchy of priorities of Jewish Voices for Peace. But those who suffered six years before, in 1941, do not. There must be an expiration date somewhere.

The tragedy is absent from the web site of the British equivalent of Jewish Voices for Peace, Na’amod. They aim to take a stand against the moral crises caused by those British Jewish institutions that support the occupation of the West Bank “directly and indirectly, through distorted words as well as deceptive silences”.  Speaking of deceptive silence, I would really like to know why at Na’amod they prefer not to mention the Farhud. It is strange for an organisation that proclaims to be founded on “fundamental Jewish values of equality and human dignity”. Perhaps Iraqi Jews, being non-Ashkenazi, are less entitled to human dignity?

One could point out that both Jewish Voices for Peace and Na’amod are fringe groups, which are either anti-Zionists or openly welcoming anti-Zionists. Everybody knows that anti-Zionists do not like to talk about anti-Semitism in Arab lands: ie the project of depriving the Jewish people of a shelter seems far less noble if one considers the difficult parts of the Arab-Jewish relations in the Middle East.

Let us then have a look at the web site of J-Street, the American organisation that calls itself “pro-Israel and pro-peace organisation”. They have a reputation of being somehow more moderated than those mentioned above. Their web site has a full section titled “Refugees”. It is entirely devoted to the Palestinian refugees: readers are asked to trust, (no sources are provided), that the descendants of Palestinians refugees who currently live in refugee camps will accept economic compensation for the losses suffered during the Nakbah. It is impossible to understand whether JStreet endorses a similar compensation for the descendants of the victims of the Farhud. Clearly, Jewish victims are less worthy of consideration, for this pro-Israel, pro-peace organisation.

Equally, there is no mention of the Farhud on the web site of Yachad, a British Jewish organisation that on its web page proclaims to be, like J Street, “pro-Israel and pro-peace”. I tried a text search with other words, such as Mizrachi, but the results were perplexing. There is only one article by an activist, published last November in a Jewish newspaper.  The article is about campaigning for the rights of minority groups in Israel, (such as “Palestinian citizens of Israel”), and includes the Mizrachi in such a list of minorities; hardly an acknowledgement of losses and tragedies caused by Arab nationalists.

I cannot believe that Yachad, as well as JStreet, a respectable Jewish organisation, hold that the conflict in the Middle East can be solved without giving any consideration to the Jewish victims of Arab anti-Semitism.  It must be that they have decided not to mention the F-word because they are all polite and kind, and that word, Farhud, must not be said. In this, they are not different from the more radical, and anti-Zionists, fringe groups.

The International Farhud Day will be on June 1st. Despite silence and vilification, may the memory of the martyrs become a blessing, and may justice come soon, speedily, in our days.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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