By Michelle Huberman
It all began when a video clip went viral of a tearful Yazidi MP in the Iraqi parliament. Screaming in despair, Fiyan Dakheel begged the international community to save her people - they were being massacred, buried alive, their women taken away to be sold as slaves. Soon after images of dehydrated and starving figures, their faces beaten by sun and sand, began to appear on our TV screens. Here was a catastrophe of epic proportions - 50,000 Yazidis stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq.
It was an opportunity for Harif - our association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa - to show that we stood in solidarity with the Yazidis and other beleaguered minorities fleeing the barbarism of Islamic State, the jihadist army sweeping across Syria and Iraq.
We were invited to take part in a predominantly Kurdish demonstration on Wednesday 13th August outside the Prime Minister''s residence in Downing Street reported here. The welcome was warm: Kurds addressed us in Hebrew and called us ''their brothers.'' We were all chanting "Down with Isis, Solve the crisis". "We are all Peshmergas!” I was interviewed for Kurdish TV and I told them I felt like I was watching the people board the train for Auschwitz. It was not enough just to drop emergency aid to let the Yazidis live a couple more days. Not since the Allied war against the Nazis had we been confronted with such evil. I felt that we needed to bomb the enemy into submission. To destroy ISIS.
Michelle Huberman standing next to (reformed Islamist) Majid Nawaz . Photo courtesy Daniel Levy
Photo courtesy Daniel Levy
Later, a Harif representative joined with Kurds, Hindus and Pakistani Christians to present a petition to the UK Prime minister to call for the government to strengthen Kurdish fighters and prevent a genocide.
On Saturday we heard about a second demonstration: I had forsaken synagogue to be at the demo outside the BBC offices in Portland Place. The crowd was double the size of Wednesday''s - more like 1,000, and it swelled during the protest that culminated in a march down to Trafalgar Square. The red flags of the communist Turkish Kurds were in evidence, and some banners called for an end to Zionism and imperialism. We already had our Harif posters - which we had made for a protest three years earlier bringing attention to the non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities in the Middle East. They seemed appropriate once again, and probably more pressing now. To this demonstration I also brought some homemade posters showing both the Kurdish and Israeli flags - overprinted with WE SUPPORT THE KURDS - DOWN WITH ISIS.
The Christians, the Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East need our support. They are experiencing the same brutality that the Iraqi and Kurdish Jews experienced when they lived there when Iraq was ruled by an Arab Sunni Muslim regime. I have met too many Jewish refugees and heard their first-hand testimonies to know that the Yazidis are experiencing the same persecution. It is a myth that minorities and Arab Muslims lived in harmony together. Hundreds of Jews were murdered in the pogrom of 1941- known as the Farhud. Many escaped Iraq through the south to Iran just before the state of Israel was born. Israel airlifted out 90 percent of the community in 1950 and 51 and in the 1970s the remnant of Iraqi Jewry were smuggled out at great risk by Kurdish people. The Kurds also had a discreet military alliance with the Israelis .
Photo courtesy: Neil Shroot
When I reached into my bag and pulled out my little A4 Israeli Kurdish flag, I hesitated at first but then held it high above my head so that everyone could see. I could feel the whole crowd slowly turning towards me. Slightly shocked at first, but then turning to smiles. People started coming over and saying, ''thank you''. I was joined by friends who also held up the same mini- posters and had the same experience.
I was interviewed by an Italian journalist on what were my views on the Palestinians. "I told them that we feel very sorry for the Gazans and the problem was Hamas. They are like ISIS suppressing their people and murdering those that don''t agree with them. They need to be overthrown like ISIS.”
To another journalist: "ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram - they’re all the same. An enemy to civilisation. They need to be destroyed.”
Jews need to have a presence at these demonstrations. We need to show that we stand with other minorities against religious fascism and fanaticism. The Israeli and Kurdish flags need to flutter side by side.
Michelle Huberman can be contacted at: [email protected]