Not to be outdone by Israel’s theft of the homes of Palestinians expelled in the 1948 Nakba, the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council is stealing the very name “Nakba” itself.
Tonight, a friend suggested that I Google “Nakba.com” to see what happened. When I did, the address redirected to “Jimena.org.” This site is a hasbara effort dedicated to countering the Palestinian Nakba claim. It’s a bit more sophisticated than that. The site claims to advance Mizrahi and Sephardi culture and traditions. It has a website that’s quite slick and looks quite authentic in terms of its connections to Mizrahi heritage.
But the site’s mission statement makes its propaganda angle apparent:
In the early 20th century, under the heavy weight of Anti-Jewish governments and policy, nearly one million Jews from the Middle East and North Africa had their property confiscated, basic human rights stripped, and were systematically persecuted and victimized. Ultimately these Jews were forced to flee their homes and surrender their nationalities, becoming the “Forgotten Refugees” of the Middle East and North Africa. UN Resolution 242 asserted that Jews fleeing Arab countries were ‘bona fide’ refugees, yet the international community, the media and North American educational systems have continuously ignored their plight and their losses.
Revisionist history of the Middle East conveniently excludes the fact that over half of Israel’s Jewish population live there not because European atrocities during World War II, but because of Anti-Jewish Arab governments who dispossessed and displaced their native Jewish populations following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Adopted narratives of the Arab-Israeli conflict fail to address the fact that Israel was the largest refugee camp in the Middle East, providing safe haven to some 650,000 dispossessed Middle Eastern and North African Jewish refugees whose ancestors had a continuous presence in the region for over 3,000 years.
Here especially is the money quote:
As the only organization in North America focused on educating and advocating on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the Israeli government has requested that JIMENA continue to play a key leadership role in international initiatives to advance this issue.
…We have led a number of effective Jewish refugee advocacy training seminars, educating students and adults on how to incorporate the issue of Jewish refugees into a broader discussion of how the Middle East has developed.
Clearly, Jimena is a creature of both domestic Israel Lobby (the JCRC) and the Israeli government itself. It is part of a long-term strategic effort to undercut any Palestinian claim of a Right of Return or reparations with a countering claim that similar damages are due the Jews from Arab lands. The hope appears to be that the two claims will cancel each other out and the Palestinians will be left with nothing.
In truth, if the Arab Jews do have a legitimate claim to either physically return to their former homes or to claim restitution, then the Palestinian refugees have the same right. In this sense, the hasbara apparatus is undermining its ultimate goal: to discredit any Palestinian claim to return to their homeland.
After a bit of sleuthing, the truth about Jimena became even clearer. First, the site is registered to the San Francisco JCRC. The site administrator is a former JCRC staffer, Yitzhak Santis, who now works for the Israel Lobby hasbara outfit, Standwithus. Santis uses a JCRC e mail address and Jimena’s address is the same as that of the JCRC. The listed phone number for Jimena’s registration is the JCRC’s own. In other words, Jimena is essentially as astroturf organization created by the JCRC in order to advance an anti-Palestinian agenda.
The current director, Sarah Levin, lived in Israel for some time and lists as one of her passions, “Israel advocacy.” The advisory board includes Charles Jacob, the founder of one of the nation’s leading Islamophobia outfits, the David Project. It also includes the CEO of the liberal-Zionist New Israel Fund, Rabbi Brian Lurie. I guess they have to cover all their ideological bases.
The odd aspect of this case is that the neither the JCRC nor Jimena own the Nakba domain. That honor is reserved for one, Howard Hoffman, a businessman and domain broker from Palo Alto. He owns Nakba.com and Nakba.org and nearly 5,000 other domain names according to Domaintools.com. But not (yet) Nakba.net. What he’s done has a name: political domain squatting or cyber-squatting. If Hoffman did this for financial gain, he would be breaking the law. I don’t know whether the JCRC is paying him for the pleasure of redirecting traffic to Jimena.org.
But Hoffman is engaging in a form of anti-Palestine lawfare by denying the domain to someone with an intent to use it to educate the public about the Nakba.
Returning to the JCRC, perhaps it’s fairer to say it isn’t stealing “Nakba” but only borrowing it from another pro-Israel businessman who stole it. He’s making a tidy profit from it doubtless (that’s his business after all), just as modern Israel has profited from its expulsion of nearly 1-million Palestinians.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.