Friday, July 04, 2008

More on the Jewish Refugees . . . er . . . um . . . Immigrants to the Zionist entity

In a Guardian article I recently posted about, Rachel Shabi, a progressive person of Iraqi descent by way of Israel, writes as follows:
Broadly, you could say that any Middle Eastern Jew ("Oriental" or "Mizrahi" Jew) who defines their migration to Israel as "Zionist" cannot also be a refugee: the former label has agency and involves a desire to live in the Jewish state; the second suggests passivity and a lack of choice.
Sometimes it's hard to have one's consciousness raised. Try as I might, I just can't help thinking of some Mizrachi Jews as refugees. So I thought I would do a post or a few posts in which I mournfully rehearse some of the historical facts that formerly led me to misuse the word refugee. Perhaps it will be therapeutic. Let's start with Operation Magic Carpet: Norman Stillman (The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, p. 157) writes:
The Yemenite refugees poured into Aden at a rate and in numbers that were beyond anything that had been expected and overwhelmed the camp facilities and relief efforts. Many refugees arrived undernourished and in frightful physical condition after having trekked hundreds of miles over rough terrain, in many cases entirely on foot. Several thousand individuals were stricken with malaria, and 70 to 80 percent of all refugees were suffering from eye diseases. Approximately 600 people died in the camps, nearly half of these during September and October 1949, when the influx of refugees was at its height. Fearing the outbreak of an epidemic, the British authorities Aden closed the border for five weeks during this peak period, causing near starvation among the hapless refugees stranded on the other side. The situation demanded that the facilities be expanded and the refugees transferred as quickly as possible. Between June 1949 and September 1950, approximately 44,000 Yemenite Jews were brought from Aden to Israel in a dramatic airlift, dubbed Operation On Wings of Eagles (see Exod. 19:4), later renamed Operation Magic Carpet. The airlift was carried out by a specially formed American charter airline, the Near East Air Transport Company, in 430 flights, with at times as many as eleven planes flying around the clock during height of the exodus in the fall of 1949.
Another writer (Reuben Ahroni, Jewish Emigration from the Yemen, 1951-98: Carpet Without Magic, Introduction) discusses a later stage:
The second phase of Operation Magic Carpet concentrated on the native Jews of Aden. These Jews had just emerged from the devastating pogrom of December 1947, in which 82 Jews were killed and 76 Jews were wounded. Faced with economic devastation, destruction of most of their homes, bleak prospects for recovery, and the dashed confidence in the ability of the British flag to safeguard their security, most of the Jews of Aden took full advantage of Operation Magic Carpet and left Aden for Israel.
There, I think I'm on the way to recovery!

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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