Israeli Press Opinion: Our Responsibility towards the Jews in the Arab Countries by Uri Harari

2024-01-16T01:52:29+02:00May 15, 1969|Categories: Articles, ISRACA May 1969|Tags: |

We all know who is responsible for the hangings in Baghdad. People all over the world condemn the murderers. Our voice, raised against the hangings of completely innocent people, is so loud that in the tumult one voice is lost – a voice that deserves to be heard, which would say, “We too are guilty”.

Among us there will certainly be those who will admit that we are guilty of one thing – of not having done enough to get the Jews out of the Arab countries in good time. On this we may perhaps say mea culpa. There will certainly also be dependents who will make a defence against that accusation, and raise a counter-accusation against the Jews who remained in the Arab countries – “Why did they not leave those countries in good time?” But, over and above such a debate, it is necessary to examine our own basic, historic responsibility for the bitter fate of those Jews whom we, by our own deeds, have made victims of Zionism. They are victims of the very slogans we raised, of “The Jewish nation lives”, of “All Jews are mutually responsible”. And what are we doing for them?


In the Arab countries there are now thousands of Jews, in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria; even in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. This fact has now been re-discovered by us. These Jews are not Zionists. More than that – they were against Zionism. They proved this in fact. They could immigrate to Israel or at least leave the countries of their birth. Most of the[ir] brethren – over 90 per cent of the Jewish communities of those countries –actually did go to Israel. Only these few thousands decided, quite consciously, not to emigrate – and they have become victims of that decision, victims of Zionism.

Two national movements – both Arab and Jewish – oppose these unfortunates. These two national movements, which can hardly agree on one single thing, have both agreed that the Zionists are right: there is, in fact, one Jewish nation and all Jews are mutually responsible.

Both they and we draw conclusions from this. For the Arabs, who are simple-minded and slightly barbaric, this means that the accessible Jews should be punished for the crimes of the inaccessible Jews. The local Jews must be punished for the sins of the Zionist Israelis who robbed Arab land, who drove the Palestinians away and who bombarded the camps of the Iraqi army.

We are, of course, more civilized and refined. We do not recognize any mutual responsibility of Arabs, both because it is inhuman and because it is against our interest. With regard to the terroristic organizations, the population in the territories, and even the Arab states, our conception is “divide and rule”. Only with regard to one group do we recognize mutual responsibility – the Jews in the Arab countries and everywhere else.

When we hear about riots, pogroms or hangings we are indignant – quite rightly. We invoke public opinion, we inveigh. We try to do whatever we can for the persecuted Jews. Later, we ask ourselves, “Where have they been all these years? Why did they not immigrate to Israel in good time? Why did they not leave Iraq in 1951, or Egypt in 1957?” Still later, and deep in our hearts, we slightly rejoice at their downfall! “They deserve it! We had warned them! We had told them!”

It is of course not customary to talk about it in public, but many of us felt a tiny bit of joy when they read newspaper reports on the swastika epidemic in Europe in 1960; or about the pro-Nazi movement in Argentina. Today, too, we have very mixed feelings when we read about de-Gaul’s antisemitic hints or about the growing anti-Jewishness of Negro leaders in America. Together with all the anger, the shock and the humiliation – these phenomena form a part of our world outlook, because Zionism said, and is still saying, that this is the way things are. This is what has to be so long as Jews live among the gentiles.


In our great enthusiasm at the achievements of Israel’s independence and sovereignty we sometimes forget Zionism’s negative aspect – it’s cruel world outlook. That theory teaches that the world is wicked; that the world imposes reality upon people, and they are not free to be masters of their own fate, to be “simply human beings” and not “Jews”, or “Arabs”, or “Englishmen” or “Germans”. Zionism teaches that every person bears a birth-mark, which sometimes becomes the mark of Cain, and he cannot change his fate no matter what he does. It teaches that a person bears the fate of his own past, and of his parents’ past, and of his parents’ parents’ past. We have forgotten that Zionism assumes the hatred of the gentile for the Jews to be eternal – no matter how liberal the gentile may be. It says that as long as the terms “nation” and “religion” have meaning antisemitism will exist — and Zionism will exist. And it seems that, despite the wishes of many humanists and cosmopolitans, both nationality and religion will remain meaningful for very many years to come.

In our ardour for Zionism, which we experience every day, including those among us who are “anti-Zionists”, we ignore the normal problem that Zionism generates – the effect of Zionist practice and Zionist ideology on the life and position of Jews who do not want to be Zionists.

This applies not only to the Jews in the Arab countries, but also to the Jews in Poland, who could leave that country but did not. And not only to them, but also to the Jews of the Soviet Union who wanted and still want to leave, but cannot do so. Even in the “free world” there are thousands and tens of thousands of Jews who have suffered and are still suffering because of us even though their skins and their property were not harmed at all. All those intellectuals and students and young people who had thought, naively and superficially, that they were free people and masters of their fate and future, have suddenly realized after the six days’ war that their freedom has a very restricted range and that their place in the world is determined to a considerable extent by those two and a half million people who live on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and who act in Israel’s interests. We have let a demon out of a bottle – and it is raging in university campuses in California and in the salons of Manhattan, London and Paris. And they are powerless before the demons which have broken out of the almost-forgotten past.

What responsibility do we bear towards them?


Some will say, “It serves them right!” Some are enthusiastic about the idea that the Jewish fate imposes itself on all those who do not want it as well as on those who do. Actually, these enthusiasts are a little more cautious, having seen what such “imposition” led to 25 years ago, during the holocaust. Now they think perhaps that things are different. First of all, we have a State that can defend the persecuted. Second, they think that Hitler’s holocaust cannot be repeated because the world has changed and may have learnt a lesson. Therefore all they wish for is “a little bit of antisemitism” and slight inconvenience, so that the Jews may draw the right conclusion and come to Israel.

Others, who try to hold on to liberal and humanistic elements and who want to maintain as far as possible the principle of free choice, are not ready to accept this “cruel Zionism“. For them the imposed responsibility raises real problems.

One thing is beyond dispute. Clearly we must do everything to enable each Jew who wants to do so to come to Israel and be absorbed in it. We must save the Jews of the Arab countries and do our utmost to open the gates of the countries of Eastern Europe. We have to create in this country the possibility to absorb Jewish immigrants from the West. All this is agreed.

But does the State of Israel have duties towards the Jews who can, but do not wish to, come here? Moreover, do we have the right to tell them, “We know better than you what is best for you – and we shall therefore act to make you come here and we shall perhaps even try to make your position more severe, so that you will have no choice but to immigrate to Israel!”

Note that this last question is not imaginary. We confronted it in some very concrete situations (Translator’s note: The author is probably hinting, among other things, at the bombing of synagogues in Iraq by Zionist emissaries. This was done in the early 1950’s in order to create panic among local Jews and make them go to Israel.) and we may still have to confront it again.


The Jerusalem Post weekly overseas edition, 20.1.1969

It seems that we must not be responsible for worsening the lot of the Jews in certain countries in order to make them go to Israel, even if we think we know they have no future unless they do go to Israel. This responsibility is too great. But this does not yet solve the central question – does Israel have to take into consideration the effects of its actions on the Jewish communities in the diaspora?

Of course, we are not talking about questions of life-and-death for the State of Israel. In such cases it will not be disputed that Israel must act in accordance with its vital interests. But in easier cases, the problem is more difficult. For example, must we consider the position of the Jews of South Africa when we determine our policy in the African continent? Must we consider the Jews of Lebanon before we raid Beirut? Must we consider the effects of our policy on the Jews of France or the U.S.? Should we be careful not to confront Jews with the problem of double loyalty?


All these questions may, perhaps, be answered in a practical way – or simply brushed aside as unimportant. But they are important, both in principle and in practice. It seems that if we declare and believe that there is one Jewish nation, with one common fate, we have no choice but to take into consideration, consciously and deliberately, the effects which the actions of one part of the nation – in Israel – has upon its other parts, in the diaspora. This conclusion follows from our Zionist conception and it is also a simple moral duty. If we ask these communities for help, we must also help them.

This statement is not as simple as it may seem. By our existence we “sin” against the lives and happiness of hundreds of thousands, or at least we make their lives more difficult. This does not mean that we have to stop living – we only have to know that by finding a solution for hundreds of thousands Jewish immigrants we have created problems for other Jews. Let us try to live, with this knowledge, in such a way that “sin” will become most worth-while, most humane and clean. This, too, is not easy or simple.

Yediot Aharonot, 9.2.69

[ISRAC(A) 1, next item: The Palestine Conflict by Moshé Macover and Eli Lobel]

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