Representation is important, but it has to be accurate
By Sapir Taib & Matthew Nouriel
(May 1, 2022 / JNS)
Anyone involved in Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish life knows that the overwhelming majority of us are Zionists. Israel’s existence has been a lifeline for many of us. It has been crucial to the survival of our culture in the face of violent hatred. So why are anti-Zionist organizations, in an attempt to look inclusive of our communities, elevating Mizrahi anti-Zionists whose views are neither representative of nor respected by the vast majority of Mizrahi Jews around the world?
We are both descendants of Jewish refugees from Iran, Tunisia and Libya; and we are Jewish communal professionals committed to advocating for and advancing the stories and rights of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews. Both of us come from families whose lives were saved by Israel. After Israel’s establishment, a tidal wave of intimidation struck Jews in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). An estimated 850,000 Jews fled MENA countries and were forced to leave behind an estimated $300 billion in homes, businesses and possessions simply because the cost of antisemitic persecution was much higher.
Sapir’s grandparents fled from Libya to Israel with two children and two suitcases. As anti-Semitism reached its zenith during the Iranian revolution, Jews like the family of Matthew’s mother were smuggled into Turkey and Pakistan hidden among cargo or traveling by donkey across mountainous terrain. Our grandparents left behind all their possessions and property after centuries during which their ancestors built lives, livelihoods and communities.