This Saturday 21st June, the BBC World Service programme Newshour will be devoting 30 minutes to the story of the hundreds of thousands of Mizrahi Jews who left or were forced out of Arab countries. The radio programme goes out at 12.05 GMT and will take calls and questions from listeners around the world. The planning editor has already taped interviews with two Iraqi-born Jews and an Egyptian-born Jew.
In addition, the BBC's World Have your Say has started a blog on which people can leave comments.
Is this our long-awaited opportunity to put the case for Jews from Arab Countries to an audience of millions? Or has the BBC something more sinister in mind?
The pre-recorded slots with Jewish refugees themselves will only amount to four or six minutes. The rest of the programme will feature so-called experts taking live calls in the studio.
It is not a good sign that this programme is being scheduled to go out on Saturday, when observant Jews will not be able to listen or take part, including much of the active leadership of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC). The planning editor only set about contacting Sephardi communities and websites on Tuesday - that's at five days' notice.
Neither is it a good sign that the 'historian' chosen to answer calls in the studio is an obscure post-Zionist leftist academic named Zvi Ben Dor whose main claim to fame is a research paper arguing that Iraqi Jews in Israel are in exile from their true homeland, Iraq. (Click on 'The invisible Exile'.)
Apparently the BBC was offered Sir Martin Gilbert, who is writing a book on Jews from Arab lands. After much prodding, the planning editor somewhat guiltily let slip that they had already chosen Ben Dor.
Thankfully JJAC are flying in David Matas, the human rights lawyer, from Canada to take part, but it is far from certain that the programme will not end-up being a stitch-up and a vehicle for the peddling of lies and myths.
If you are concerned that the case for Jewish refugees should get a fair hearing, please leave comments on the BBC Newshour blog and try to contribute to the live discussion by telephone.
Update: Mira Rocca has been asked to read passages from the book Memories of Eden on the programme.
Update to the update: some reactions to the programme have now been posted on the BBC's blog.
My reaction:. The discussion was designed to undermine the very premise that Jews were refugees. The programme mostly quoted Arab contributions to its blog. 'Historian' Zvi Ben Dor threw back in the Israeli government's face the rhetoric that the Mizrahi Jews were not refugees but Zionists returning to their homeland. The programme began with a report from Morocco, emphasising the symbiosis between Jews and Muslims over time and quoting two dhimmified Jews in the Moroccan public eye, Simon Levy and Andre Azoulay, whose statements should not be taken at face value.
JJAC's David Matas saved the day for the Jewish refugees. Yes, conditions did vary from country to country and Jews left for a variety of reasons, just as Palestinians had done. Even if the Jews were no longer refugees -their situation had been 'mitigated' and the Arab refugees' situation had been 'aggravated' - the Jews were still refugees at their departure. And bravo, David, for arguing that raising the plight of Jewish refugees actually legitimises the issue of the Palestinian refugees.
The presenter Claire Bolderson tried to appear fair, saying that the BBC was aware that observant Jews were not able to listen to the programme as it was being broadcast on Shabbat. The BBC would be repeating the programme that evening ( not realising that for many Jews around the world it was still Shabbat.)
Although Ellis Douek's pre-recorded interview made the point effectively that the Jews of Egypt had been persecuted and had no wish to return, what was most telling was what the editors chose to leave out: one Iraqi Jew's taped 20-minute account of post-1967 arrests, persecutions and harrassment must have been too hard for the BBC to swallow, as was Mira Rocca's reading of her family's experience of the 1941 Farhoud pogrom. (Now we can't disturb those preconceived notions of pre-Zionist harmony between Arabs and Jews, can we?)
All in all, though, the programme was not too bad - and thanks to David Matas, listeners were most probably left with the overriding impression that the Jewish refugees did have a case.
I would like to see the BBC use those interviews it taped but didn't use in a follow-up programme : If the Newshour editors have learned anything from planning this programme it may be this: that they have barely scratched the surface of this important story.
If you missed the programme you can listen again for the next seven days. Click on Newshour Saturday 13.00 GMT.