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Pointless

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Loolwa Khazzoom shares the story behind ‘Pointless’ a new song on her band’s debut album, Iraqis in Pajamas (June 4 release).

Image of Hakham Ezra Dangoor (b.1848)— Chief Rabbi of Baghdad (1923-1926) in the New Synagogue of Baghdad. Photo: Wikipedia


The Backstory
The world knows little or nothing about indigenous Middle Eastern Jews, like my family, who lived on the land of Iraq for 1300 years before the Arab Muslim conquest of the region. My family lived on that land for 2,600 years, to be exact, ever since the Babylonian conquest and invasion of ancient Israel, when my ancestors were taken as captives to Babylon – which over the millennia evolved into today’s Iraq.

Due to religious and ethnic persecution in the 20th century, including the attempted genocide of Jews during my father’s generation, my family fled from Iraq in 1950 and arrived as refugees in Israel, where up to 70% of the Jewish population was also indigenous Middle Eastern Jewish refugees, who had fled from Arab persecution throughout the region. And yet, when the world discusses the Arab-Israel conflict, it is always with the narrative that Jews are European colonialist invaders – with no recognition that Jews predated Arabs throughout much of the region or that Jews are indigenous people who were exiled from their native land and have finally returned.

I spent 20 years as a Jewish multicultural educator, from 1990-2010, teaching about Jews from Africa, the Middle East, Central and East Asia, Central and South America – communities that predated Central and Eastern European Jewish communities by up to 3,500 years, despite European Jews getting all the airtime. I was successful at my work – presenting at institutes like Harvard University and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and publishing my articles in media like Rolling Stone and The Washington Post. No matter how much noise I made, however, no matter how many tens of millions of people were exposed to my work, it seemed everyone was still running around with the Eurocentric narrative, leaving me feeling I barely had made a dent, despite devoting most of my adult life to this educational mission.

The Song
Five years ago, I called my aunt in Israel, who was completely freaked out. I don’t watch the news, so I had no idea what was going on. Across the country, there was a wave of violence in which hundreds of Arabs were randomly attacking Jews – ramming cars into pedestrians, stabbing people, and shooting people. My aunt, and all my relatives, not only had gone through terror in Iraq and lived with inter-generational trauma from that, but they and their children and grandchildren also lived with ongoing assaults against Jews in Israel. And yet, as the majority population of dark-skinned indigenous Middle Eastern Jews were being assaulted – the same population who had arrived as refugees, and whose personal and communal property had been stolen and confiscated by Arab governments, to the tune of millions of dollars in 1950 (now probably billions), the narrative continued to be that Israel is a white, European, colonializing nation, with the implicit or explicit conclusion that violence against Israeli Jews is therefore justified.

I was very distressed after speaking with my aunt and thought about taking action, but didn’t really see the point. It’s always the same story, just different props on a stage, with the same canned script. Nothing changes. Over the decades of my education and activism work, I had come to understand, that unless and until people are willing to do the deep, internal, personal work of confronting their own core wounding or trauma, they will continue to recycle that hurt in different forms, projecting it onto the world like vomit. This all goes to say, as I express in the song, I didn’t see the point of writing another article or giving another lecture, no matter how many millions of people I reached, because it would not do a damn thing.

I need you
To point me
In the right direction
Because right now
I don’t see the point
And I don’t see where
I’m headed

Pointless

I gave it my everything
And ultimately got nowhere
Despite the many lives
I changed along the way

And now it all seems
Pointless

Nobody cares
Nobody notices
Nobody questions
Or does the work

So what’s the point
I really don’t see the point

I’m inclined
To get a bowl of popcorn
And watch this drama play out
But how can I sit idly by
As your blood spills

Everyone is reading
From the same canned script
They read before
Nothing changes
But the props

And now it all seems
Pointless

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Loolwa Khazzoom (KHAZZOOM.com) is an Iraqi-American Jewish musician, writer, and educator. She is the editor of The Flying Camel: Essays on Identity by Women of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Heritage, and her work has been featured in top media including The New York Times, Marie Claire, and Rolling Stone.
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3 months ago

[…] PointlessJewThinkMay 16, 2021 […]

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