In The Margins

Ha’aretz has a longish profile of writer Samir Naqqash, who passed away last month. Born in Iraq, Naqqash left with his family for Israel when he was thirteen. He’s probably the ultimate case of a writer living in the margins: A Jew born in Iraq, he spent years trying to leave Israel to escape discrimination against Mizrahis. Yet when Saddam fell, he refused to return to Iraq. He befriended Arabs, but is said by fellow writer Sami Michael to have spoken disparagingly of them.

“Immediately, one could see his great talent, the talent for storytelling and the writing talent and the verbal genius of Samir Naqqash,” says Prof. Moreh. “I told him already then, you have rare talents, you should go over to Hebrew, otherwise the Arabs will consider you a Jew and the Jews an Arab – as in fact happened. But he said to me, Arabic is my mother tongue, and only in it can I express myself precisely, only in it can I be a writer. I told him, do as you wish, but it’s a shame that your greatness won’t be recognized.”

The article is a fascinating look at Naqqash’s life.